Steven Pressfield’s Writing Wednesday post today discusses Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule – you know, the rule that you must spend 10,000 hours (roughly 10 years) of focused practice to master any complex skill. Pressfield has his usual unique take on why the 10,000 hour rule is true:
But what exactly are we learning when we’re beating our brains out all those years? What was Charles Bukowski learning while he was boozing and wenching and sorting mail at the P.O.? What was Henry Miller accomplishing in Brooklyn and Paris? Or Miyamoto Musashi dueling all those samurai swordsmen?
Skill, certainly. Patience, professionalism, many other things. But it was something much more subtle—and far more difficult. I almost hesitate to write about this, in that it borders on the mysterious and the sacred. I must silently (or not so silently) beseech the Muse’s permission.
What these masters were learning was to speak in their own voice. They were learning to act as themselves. In my opinion, this is the hardest thing in the world.
To speak in one’s own voice means to let go of all the other voices in our heads. Whose voices? The voices of what is expected of us. Yes, that means the voices of our parents, teachers, mentors. But it means something more elusive too. It means our own expectations of what we should be doing or ought to be thinking—what is “normal” or “right” or “the way it ought to be.”
How does the actor get past his own excruciating self-consciousness? How does the entrepreneur come up with an idea that’s really new? The answer is they both beat their heads against the wall over and over and over until finally, from pure exhaustion, they can’t “try” any more and they just “do.” Ten thousand hours if you’re lucky, more if you’re not. The gods are watching for those ten thousand hours, like instructors at Navy SEALs training. They can tell when we’re faking and they can tell when we’re for real. They can pick out those of us who really want it from those who are only pretending.
It takes a lot of time, effort and patience to trust in yourself and to believe in your heart that you know what you are doing and that your unique way, not the “best practices” way, is the right way for you to best serve those you were meant to serve.