~ Michael Cunningham, A Home at the End of the World
“This is what you do. You make a future for yourself out of the raw material at hand.”
~ Michael Cunningham, A Home at the End of the World
"Life is meaningless only if we allow it to be. Each of us has the power to give life meaning, to make our time and our bodies and our words into instruments of love and hope.”
- Tom Head
Image courtesy of digitalart at
I was reading a blog post this morning that mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and what Gladwell refers to as the 10,000-Hour Rule. The “rule” is based on the work of Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a psychology professor at Florida State University and eminent researcher on expertise.
I had heard of this rule before, something about it taking 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. I haven’t read Outliers, but I conducted a Google search to see what I could learn.
What I discovered is that for everyone who writes about the 10,000-Hour Rule, there seems to be a slightly different interpretation of just what that rule says. So 10,000 hours is either:
** the amount of dedicated practice time it takes to truly master a skill;
** the key to success in any field;
** the common denominator for people who achieve incredible success in their respective endeavors;
** what talent is really about; or
** the amount of time is takes to become a “phenom” at something.
There’s quite a stretch between becoming a success at something and becoming a phenomenon, or as per Erik Deckers interpretation, becoming “so freakishly awesome, to be such a standout among your peers, that sometimes your first name is enough to tell people who you are…”
To accomplish 10,000 hours of practice at something would mean putting in 40 hour practice weeks over the course of almost five years. Since it is unlikely that one would be able to truly focus on a specific skill for an eight hour stretch at a time, the dedicated practice time per week might have to be at least halved, meaning that we are now looking at ten years to attain mastery. Not too bad if it’s truly your life’s passion.
I’m sure that 10,000 hours is a rather arbitrary number. Still, that’s a big chunk of time. As for me, I’m not actually striving to become phenomenal at anything. But there are skills that I might like to improve upon. So maybe it would be worth my while to look at a scaled-down version of the Rule.
I’d like to propose the 365-Hour Rule. Suppose someone committed to pursuing a specific interest for an average of one hour a day for a year (which non-coincidentally comes out to 365 hours per year). I’m guessing that even at that level of commitment, they would see a gain in expertise in their chosen area. They wouldn’t become brain surgeons or concert pianists in that time, but they would be 365 hours ahead of the game from where they were a year ago.
And if it’s really just a matter of putting in the time and they really wanted to become incredible at what they did, if they just kept up the 365 hour/year commitment, within 27.4 years they could reach that goal, too. Or maybe not.
It can be challenging to keep a year-long commitment. Just look at the success rate of New Year’s resolutions. But maybe if it’s something I’m already doing – like writing, say – and if I just track my time and truly focus on concentrated practice, I may surprise myself at my progress. It’s worth a shot. I feel a Pulitzer Prize coming on… maybe in about three decades.
Are you with me?
One of the difficulties when trying to work my way out of a deep drepression is facing the conundrum: I don’t feel up to doing the things that are going to make me feel up to doing things. At the depths of depression, it might become a challenge even to get out of bed, let alone actually take part in any meaningful activity.
During my various stints in intensive behavioral health outpatient treatment programs(which I prefer to just call “brain school”), I was taught a lot of things about dealing with depression. Some of those things I even remember. Then again, some of the things I think I remember probably weren’t really the things they were trying to teach me. So please take what I say I learned with a grain of salt.
One thing I learned about doing the work I need to do to get better is that if I don’t think I can do something, or don’t feel I can do it, or don’t believe I can do it, that’s the time to do it anyway.
Do what I just said I can’t do? In a word, yes. Maybe I’m telling myself that I can’t get out of bed and face the day. But if my body is physically capable of lifting itself out of the bed, then indeed I can get up. If I survived the challenges of yesterday, chances are I can survive today, too. No matter what it feels like. And if getting up and doing something is going to help me get up and do things, then perhaps I truly can take that first step. It’s kind of like practicing tough love on myself. Gently, though. Lovingly.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I can’t just turn on a switch and suddenly have the energy, the insight, or even the will to do something, even if I know it would be to my benefit. It’s hard, very hard. But if I can just make a slight movement forward, I can begin to overcome the inertia that feels like a 10,000 pound weight holding me down.
This all comes to mind today because I am heading out on an overnight camping excursion with my daughter. An absolute and utter miracle, if I look back on how I felt four months ago. Back then it was a major undertaking to get myself to the grocery store. Unless I had to buy food for the cats, it was just easier for me not to eat. I am thankful for the therapists at brain school who told me to just do it anyway.
I still feel some trepidation about going today. Stepping out of my comfort zone is not usually something I do voluntarily. But I am trusting that the reward will be greater than the discomfort. And I am really looking forward to melting myself a nice, gooey s’more over the campfire. On days like this, I am ever so grateful that I took that first step, and did what I couldn’t do.
Wishing you a good day today.
Hello. I am Maggie. I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. Three hospitalizations, four times through an intensive outpatient program, and numerous therapists later, I have reached a point where it's come down to "do or die." It's time to pick up the tools that have been presented to me, take my life lessons to heart, and do my damnedest to make a go of this life.
It has not been my experience that one can just "get over" chronic depression. Snap out of it. Lighten up. Look on the bright side. But what one can do is put one foot in front of the other and get through one day, one hour, one minute at a time if that's all the farther we dare look. There is a better life out there. A better life in here, within ourselves. And I am on the journey to find that life, to build that life, to lift the weight of depression from my soul as best I can with what I have.
I have already made a start, otherwise I would be too incapacitated to write this blog. I hope to share what has helped, what is helping, and what the ups and downs are along the way. I would hope that in sharing, perhaps someone else will be encouraged to begin their own journey to a better life. I look forward to having your company along the way.
About me and this blog:
Having suffered at the hands of my own negativity for far too long, I decided it was time to claim the positive energy that is available to each of us for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. Hence, I've begun the process of "lifting the weight" of depression from my soul and moving into a lighter, freer space. Please join me in finding a way to a more balanced, affirming life.
-- Breaking Glass
-- Drawing Lines
-- Nautilus Shell: Golden or Marvelous?
-- Choosing Colors
-- Creating a Masterpiece
-- Challenge Yourself
-- How I Spent my Winter Vacation
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ~Marcus Aurelius