Weekly Column: 10,000 hours to perfection

©Stephenie Freeman

My husband’s not a big reader. It can take him months to finish a book. Being a heavy reader myself, his lack of reading commitment is one of his many endearing quirks that drives me nuts.

I’m considering putting him on the same reading incentive program as our 6-year old. If he fills up his sticker chart, maybe I’ll take him out for an ice cream.

Part of the problem is that he is a late night reader. Late at night, when we snuggle up in bed with our books on our nightstands, he only last a few minutes before falling asleep. I can always tell when he is done. Several minutes pass without the sound of a page turning from his side of the bed.

But occasionally he reads something that excites him that he unexpectedly feels the need to share.

“Did you know that Coach John Wooden won ten national championships in twelve years?”

“Did you know that at the champions’ dinner at the Masters, the defending champ selects the menu and picks up the tab?”

“Did you know that by the time that J. Paul Getty was 24, he had made his first million?”

These tasty tidbits never produced much more than a muffled, “Uh-huh” or a blasé, “Oh really?” from my side of the bed until recently.

“Did you know that it takes 10,000 hours to be really great at something?”

In the book “Outliers”, the author Malcolm Gladwell states that research has proven that practicing something for 10,000 hours produces true mastery at anything. Basically, the old saying has been proven true—practice really does make perfect.

People like Wolfgang Mozart, Bobby Fischer, and Tiger Woods all started practicing when they were small children. It didn’t take them long to collect their 10,000 hours. It only stood to reason that they would become masters of their crafts at a relatively young age.

If this is the case, my children will most certainly become masters of video game playing and television watching in no time.

As my husband stayed awake long enough to finish a few more pages of his book, I tried to go back to return to reading my chick-lit novel, but I couldn’t. 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours to be perfect at something. If that’s what it took to become a master of precision and flawlessness, what did that mean for me exactly? What had I spent 10,000 hours on? What was I perfect at?
It took a while, but I came up with a few.

Eating. I have definitely spent 10,000 hours eating. Unfortunately, I have not spent 10,000 hours exercising. The last few years I have been desperately trying to reverse the two. But every day, as I search for the bag of Oreos hidden deep within my pantry, I am reminded how futile my attempts are and go back to doing what I do best. It’s like singers and athletes that retire in their prime. It doesn’t make any sense. Why should I stop doing something that I am obviously so good at?

Cleaning house. I have my family to thank for this one. I continue to clean and they continue to mess it up. I can vacuum blindfolded, mindlessly fold laundry, and clean a toilet in less than a minute. If there was a professional league for cleaning, I’d be ranked near the top. Mr. Clean and Mrs. Meyers have nothing on me.

Procrastinating. I proficient at wasting time and have perfected the art of waiting until the last second. The more time I waste, the better procrastinator I become. The only thing I never procrastinate about is eating.

I’m sure I could have gone on and on with things that I have spent over 10,000 hours doing. Shopping, worrying, and talking would all make the list. I’d ask my husband what he thought should be on the list, but his answers probably wouldn’t be suitable to actually write about in a column.

Unfortunately for me, none of my perfectly mastered skills will give me fame and fortune like my buddies Wolfgang and Tiger. I’m okay with that. Like many things in life, the joy of being perfect at something doesn’t come from the money or the praise, but from the satisfaction of being the best.

And let me tell you, eating a whole bag of Oreos can be very satisfying.

One Comment

  1. Dawn

    You are so funny. Loved this!At least your husband READS! Mine doesn’t even do that unless he’s reading something from his phone! LOL!This reminded me of our church service Sunday. The pastor was talking about going “All in” for Christ. He talked about Mozart and how he was trained from a very early age to perfect his talent. Same with Tiger Woods… It was a great message. He just said if we are going to live for the Lord we must go ALL IN. Good stuff!

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