Thursday, June 6, 2013

Every Expert Was Once a Beginner

Today is Thursday, June 6, 2013.

The expert in anything was once a beginner.

This graphic reminded me of the "10,000 hour rule" in a book called Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.  In the book, Gladwell explains his theory about how people who are extraordinarily successful got to be that way.  While it's true that certain people are born into situations that provide a fast track to success, successful people tend to invest a lot of time in their area of expertise.  They spend at least 10,000 hours, to be exact.  If you spend about three hours a day, or about 20 hours a week, on whatever it is you want to be good at, it will take you about ten years to gain enough expertise to guarantee success.

Let's say a kid starts playing baseball at the age of 8, and spends an average of 20 hours a week with a bat, ball and glove, he may become a successful professional baseball player as young as 18.   Most kids don't start out spending that much time on anything, unless they are Olympic hopefuls in ice skating or gymnastics, egged on by overbearing parents or carefully chosen and regimented by the government.

It's important to remember that Gladwell was talking about people who are extraordinarily successful.  It's possible to be "successful" in life, even if you are not necessarily a recognized expert in some particular field.  In fact, if you spend time doing things you enjoy, you can be "successful" in terms of having a reasonably happy life.  What's wrong with that?

I calculated that in 32.5 years of teaching, I racked up about 53, 200 hours of teaching time.  Certainly, that was enough to make me a so-called "master teacher," but I have to say that I haven't attained any special credentials.  I did not become a National Board Certified teacher.  I was never nominated for Teacher of the Year.  Still, I was good at what I did, and at the end of my career, I felt that I could teach anybody anything, using any materials.  For most of my time in education, my caseload was over 90 kids per day, so I can say that I affected a lot of kids' lives, hopefully positively.

In any event, it's true that whatever you do and however much time you devote to it, if you are able to derive satisfaction from it and if you can say that you have done your best and had a positive effect on the world, I'd say that you are a success.  Maybe not an "outlier," but certainly a success.  :-)

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