Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ten Thousand Hours and Talent

I am wrapping up Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers. His convincing conclusion is that the experience of those who have achieved great success " first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy." (p. 285)

His conclusions are reassuring in many ways. With ten thousand hours of practice, any one of us with even middling talent can become proficient. To become leaders in our field, we need a little more. We are helped by a supportive community and being in the right time and place. "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings." Proverbs 22:29.

My daughter, passionate about dogs, send me an editorial by Cesar Millan, dog whisperer. He is one of those people who has excelled in his line of work, and also had the good fortune to have a community, place and time to build great influence, or as Gladwell describes it, meaningful work.

On the twentieth of this month, he talks about how dogs have taught him.

"But that's not all dogs have to teach us. They educate us about the value of consistency. If you apply Exercise, Discipline, then Affection every day without fail, your dog will reward you with loyal companionship. And they show us how to live life to the fullest by being balanced and celebrating every moment.

Through my pack, I have experience birth, life, and death, and they have shared fundamental lessons about going through this natural life cycle. How do they pass from one phase to the next? How do they stay together all their lives as a family? They have taught me to value the simplicity of life itself. They intensify every moment that I am with them. And for that, I am eternally grateful."

Yes, I can learn a lot from hanging out with our dog friend, Ariel. She knows when it has been too long between visits. A quick exchange of affection is all that is needed. How many times do I neglect that simple thing? What price do I pay, mentally and physically, by ignoring this basic need?

How about celebrating the moment? I've seen that theme repeated over and over again as well. There's Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on Flow. I bet dogs and ten thousand hours champions enjoy many flow moments of intense concentration.