Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why Is Everything Difficult?

Whether it’s learning to walk for the first time or solving complex quantum physics’ equations, it’s difficult. Yet, most people can be considered experts at walking and there are people throughout the world who are great at solving fascinating mysteries through quantum physics.

If you and I go down the list of difficult tasks like tying shoes, riding a bicycle or learning a new language, it will become apparent that
everything is difficult in the beginning. While I do not remember the first time I learned to walk as an infant, I am positive I failed many times before I was successful. Now, years later I walk without effort. The same is true when it comes to tying my shoes or running a complex organization which employs thousands of people.

Even though most people master the basics like walking, tying shoes, mathematics, speaking a language, few people turn walking into running at record speeds like Usain Bolt. It seems easy to explain Bolt’s performance after the fact. People use explanations like genetics, luck, being in right place at the right time, etc. However, if you look closer, you will recognize patterns that are inherent in people who achieve extraordinary success.

If you and I can accept that everything is difficult in the beginning, even the simplest tasks like walking, then you begin to see that limits are self-imposed. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, his research showed that people who practiced anything for 10,000 hours or more became masters at that craft.

If we stick with the simple task of walking, you never hear people explain a child walking as a matter of luck or genetics. The child practiced over and over, even in the face of many failures. With that said, perhaps nothing is difficult. It is just a matter of how committed you are to put in 10,000 hours of practice.

In Gladwell’s book, for example, he said that musicians who practiced 10,000 hours or more from age 5 to 18 usually found a job in a world-class symphonic orchestra. Those who practiced 8,000 hours were able to make a living as a musician by playing in a band that traveled often. Except, the band never made it big. Those with 4,000 hours or less became the high school music teacher. The same was true for dancers, athletes or attorneys.

These are patterns that can be seen in any profession. More importantly, every profession has opportunities that are recognizable to the master of that craft. Whether you are an investor, teacher or gambler, over time, you acquire the ability to see opportunities that laymen are unable to recognize. With practice, you can predict how the situation will unfold. With that knowledge, you can exploit the opportunity. The observer would call it luck. Why? Because the layman would find it difficult to produce the same result.

While everything is difficult in the initial stages, simplicity arises from hours of focused practice. With practice, the most complex task becomes as simple as walking. It only requires the innate tenacity we all possess as infants.  

What will you begin to master in your life?

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.

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