Writings on the Wall

Dearest ______,

Some people believe pop psych writer Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. You know, how he supposes that it takes precisely 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become great at any one thing. When I first heard this theory years ago, I had a tiny panic at the thought of not being able to have enough time in my “youth”– approximately 10,000 hours to spare– to master what I truly wanted to be good at. I was halfway down my 20’s and had been agonising: “If I were supposed to be amazing at something, shouldn’t I be amazing at it by now? How is one supposed to be great at something— or at the very least, in the midst of aiming at greatness– when one doesn’t even know what that something is?” On and on these anxious little thoughts do plague an imaginative girl’s head for long stretches of time.

It’s been years since the 10,000 Hour Rule was rightfully debunked. And even longer, since I debunked most of my personal anxieties caused by other baseless assumptions in successful living. These days, I’m more inclined to listen to ballsier people like Amy Poehler who wrote:

I guess the Buddhists would call this idea healthy detachment. Too often we are told to visualize what we want and cut out pictures of it and repeat it like a mantra over and over again. Books and magazines tell us to create vision boards. Late- night commercials remind us that “anything is possible.” Postive affirmations are written on our tea bags. I am introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it. 

I will  say it again. Ambivalence is key.

You  have to care about your work but not the result. 

With lesser opinions and more facts (i.e. to-do-lists) written on the wall, the more things actually get done.  And while we definitely need more practice– for work, for talent, for passion, for ambivalence, for kindness, for life, etc– at least all this actual practicing helps to forget the time. Whether it’s been 20 hours or 10,000 hours or 33 years of living, we’re (mostly) still having fun.


And surely fun is a momentary vestige of success, however momentary that may be?



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