17 Jun 2010

Being good at something

I stumbled upon this post a couple of days back, and it somehow resonated within me. It made me remember my school days in Singapore when I first started playing Cricket formally, i.e. using proper bat, ball and other equipment. Boy, did I suck. I was surrounded by other NRIs, who somehow seemed far more gifted than I was – at all forms of the game. But, I knew I really loved cricket. I was in Singapore then, and cricket matches were seldom shown on the TV. Even then, I used to read the ball-by-ball text commentary of almost all matches India played on Cricinfo religiously. I was determined to get better at the game, and eventually I did. By the end of my junior college life, I was a somewhat average batsman and an occasional spinner. Not bad for someone who started off being afraid to even face the cricket ball, and whose balls landed above the cricket nets when he attempted to bowl. I never became flamboyant or awe-inspiring, but by understanding my strengths and working on my limitations, I was able to become fairly okay at the game.

Years later, I now believe that such a pattern is true for almost any field. There are some who are actually naturally good at certain things, and then there are those who appear to be naturally talented. For the casual observer, this difference will all but go unnoticed. Yet, given a choice between talent and hard work, somehow I prefer hard work. It’s perhaps because I have seen a lot of people waste their talent, as they became carried away with what they could do, while, those who reached such a stature by hard work understood the process and what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

In the book “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell, he mentions something similar – the 10,000 hour rule: claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practising a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Now, if you practised what you want 2 hours every day, that’s going to take you just about 14 years to become an expert at it. This is why it’s so important that you don’t let anyone tell you how bad you are at something. The only thing that matters is how much you love doing it, and how badly you want to make it up there. Talent can be substituted for hard work in lots of cases – especially if the process of ageing is not a factor for what you are trying to achieve.

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