Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Simple Way To Become A Genius (Insert Anything Here)


So, you have a vague dream of being a ''great' writer? A great doctor? A great leader? A great musician? You want to compose masterpieces?

You've come to the right place. I shall, in due season, relate to you the simple formula for becoming a master. You will be surprised how simple it is.

First, read these words from Vince Lombardi:
The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor. 
We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible. The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.
Success demands singleness of purpose.
Leaders aren't born; they are made. And they are made just like anything else: through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.
The Dictionary is the only place where success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price.
The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

Next, consider this interchange between an older General Jackson (who wanted to learn Ancient Greek), and a doubtful soldier
"I intend to learn Greek," said General Jackson.
He was, by then, fairly advanced in years. His childhood education was below average. He had struggled with academics at West Point, and his grades showed it.
The soldier answered, "It will be very difficult. You are probably too old to learn a new language."
Jackson replied, "You're wrong. If I set my mind to it, I will do it."

So, you have a vague dream of being a ''great' writer, and churning out masterpieces?

I have good news. You can do it. You can be a master of the English language; you can write works of fiction/prose that last forever. I have no doubt that anyone reading this right now has the ability right now to write like a master. No doubt. You can do it. That's the good news.

I have some other news. If you want to be a master, it's gonna cost you something. Namely, about 10,000 hours.

A new study carried out by the British scientists revealed that it takes a person 10,000 hours of practice to become ace in a certain discipline. Researchers suggest that the time spent for practicing makes the difference between a person who is good and the one that is brilliant. They carried out their study at Berlin's Academy of Music by observing violin students who began playing at the age of five. These students started practicing for 2 or 3 hours a week and as they grew so increased the time they spent for practicing. Top performers, by the time they celebrated their 20th birthday, reached 10,000 hours of practice

As I said, I have no doubt that anyone reading this right now has the ability right now to write like a master -- right now! -- but not right away, and not without the right amount of effort. By right amount of effort, I mean 10,000 hours.

At 20 hours a week, it would only take you 10 years to reach the 10,000 hours mark.

And, not just any 10,000 hours. Rather 10,000 hours of focused perfect practice.
"(H)ow I spend my practice time remains more important than how much time I spend practicing."
- Noa Kageyama
"Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."
- Vince Lombardi
10,000 hours: becoming a master really is that simple (I said simple, not easy). So simple: It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you need focused effort over a prolonged period of time to achieve mastery; it doesn't take a genius to know this. Simple. It does take, or rather make, a genius to do this. Not easy.

Not easy: this involves determination, striving, frustration, hard work, and resolve. Achieving mastery is more an issue of will than skill. The problem is not that we lack potential to arrive at grand goals. The problem is that we lack the requisite determination: we don't have the heart for taxing pursuits. Why? Because we don't have the heart. We lack  the kind of heart JFK possessed when he said, "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other hard things: not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Note: vaguely dreaming about being 'great,' and the corollary exercise of 'just believing in yourself' will not in any way help you toward your goal of mastery. You should believe in your potential, but don't believe in yourself; believe in practice. I wonder if 'believing in ourselves' is not a great hindrance to mastery. After all, if I believe in myself, and affirm my genius no matter what -- no matter the evidence; no matter what other's say -- well then, I don't need to practice, nor will I even be able to see the need to practice.

Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
A: Practice, practice, practice.

On '10,000 Hours,' From Infoniac:

A new study carried out by the British scientists revealed that it takes a person 10,000 hours of practice to become ace in a certain discipline. They say that top musicians, sportsmen and chess players were all able to become masters in their field by achieving the level where their time of practice reached 10,000 hours.
Top performers, by the time they celebrated their 20th birthday, reached 10,000 hours of practice, but those who simply showed good results achieved the amount of 8,000 hours.
"It seems it takes the brain this long to assimilate all it needs to know to achieve true mastery," explained neurologist Daniel Levitin to Focus, a BBC science magazine, which published The Story of Success. 
... (in) Outliers Malcolm Gladwell wrote that The Story of Success may explain why The Beatles became so popular. While in Hamburg... the band played about 8 hours a night, seven days a week... (by the time they) became popular the Fab Four had already performed about 1,200 live concerts, more than many young bands play during their (whole) career.

What constitutes effective practice?
Excerpts from Noa Kageyama's A Better Way To Practice:

...We often waste lots of time because nobody ever taught us the most effective and efficient way to practice. Whether it's learning how to code, improving your writing skills, or playing a musical instrument, practicing the right way can mean the difference between good and great.

"Practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in 1 1/2 hours."

...Dr. Ericsson is perhaps the world's leading authority. His research is the basis for the "10,000-hour rule" which suggests that it requires at least ten years and/or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve an expert level of performance in any given domain...

Those are some pretty big numbers. So large, that at first I missed the most important factor in the equation.

Deliberate practice...there is a specific type of practice that facilitates the attainment of an elite level of performance. And then there's the other kind of practice that most of us are more familiar with.

(On Mindless Practice)

Have you ever observed a musician (or athlete, actor, trial attorney) engage in practice? You'll notice that most practice resembles one of the following distinct patterns.

1. Broken record method: This is where we simply repeat the same thing over and over... simply mindless repetition.

2. Autopilot method: This is where we activate our autopilot system and coast.

Unfortunately, there are...problems with practicing this way.

...It's a waste of time: Why? For one, very little productive learning takes place when we practice this way. This is why you can "practice" something for hours, days, or weeks, and still not improve all that much. Even worse, you are actually digging yourself a hole, because what this model of practicing does is strengthen undesirable habits and errors, increasing the likelihood of more consistently inconsistent performances... Real on-stage confidence comes from (a) being able to nail it consistently, (b) knowing that this isn't a coincidence but that you can do it the correct way on demand...

(Bad practice) is mind-numbingly dull: Practicing mindlessly is a chore. We've all had well-meaning parents and teachers tell us to go home and practice a certain passage x number of times, or to practice x number of hours, right? But why are we measuring success in units of practice time? What we need are more specific results-oriented outcome goals...

Deliberate Practice... or mindful practice is a systematic and highly structured activity, that is, for lack of a better word, more scientific. Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful process of hypothesis testing where we relentlessly seek solutions to clearly defined problems... Deliberate practice is often slow, and involves repetition of small and very specific sections of a skill instead of just playing through.

... If this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is. Which might explain why few take the time to practice this way. To stop, analyze what went wrong, why it happened, and how they can produce different results the next time. I spend my practice time remains more important than how much time I spend practicing.

...Focus is everything: 
Keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused...

...When you stumble onto a new insight or discover a solution to a problem, write it down! As you practice more mindfully, you'll began making so many micro-discoveries that you will need written reminders to remember them all.

Smarter, not harder... Instead of stubbornly persisting with a strategy that clearly wasn't working, I forced myself to stop. I brainstormed solutions to the problem for a day or two, and wrote down ideas as they occurred to me. When I had a list of some promising solutions, I started experimenting.

By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between Sermons newly compos’d, and those which he had often preach’d in the Course of his Travels. His Delivery of the latter was so improv’d by frequent Repetitions that every Accent, every Emphasis, every Modulation of Voice, was so perfectly well turn’d and well plac’d, that without being interested in the Subject, one could not help being pleas’d with the Discourse, a Pleasure of much the same kind with that receiv’d from an excellent Piece of Music. This is an Advantage itinerant Preachers have over those who are stationary: as the latter cannot well improve their Delivery of a Sermon by so many Rehearsals.

On Activity

But anything made for use will suffer injury to lie still. The human body, especially, if suffered to remain inactive, becomes useless. Activity strengthens the parts. If you would have more strength, you must use what you have, and it will increase. The right use of your members, also, must be learned by practice. Much practice is necessary, for instance, to train the fingers to the various uses in which they are to be employed, so as, (to use a homely phrase,) to make them handy. The body, likewise, needs exercise, to keep it in a healthy state. The various parts of its machinery have a great work to do, every day, in turning your food into blood, and sending it a great many thousand times, in a vast number of little streams, to every part of the body. But this machinery will not work, if the body is all the time inactive. It requires motion, to give it power. There is nothing, therefore, so bad for it as laziness. It is like a dead calm to a windmill, which stops all its machinery.

-- Harvey Newcomb, How to Be a Man; How to Be a Lady: A Book for Children, Containing Useful Hints On the Formation of Character (Kindle Locations 1232-1239). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

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