“I fear not the man who have practiced 10000 kicks once, but the man who have practiced one kick 10000 times.” ~ Bruce Lee (tweet this)
Where I currently live, and I suppose this is as true here as it is everywhere, there is a consistent pattern showing in both work and life in general. Our mind decides to confuse more with better, variety and diversity with quality, being consistently mediocre with diligence.
Why indeed, does a restaurant make the menu longer, instead of making one dish worth traveling half the town for? We do everything, while at the same time specializing at nothing; a form of curiosity, showing off, or simply a desperate cry caused by the inability to overcome procrastination?
Forget jobs and careers, it is about passion
Careers, without much in the way of welcoming the future, are quickly getting redundant. The man of today, the modern nomad, realizes, at least, that he is better off switching gears – bouncing from one project to another, adjusting skill sets.
Having many of my friends working online, I notice a similar trend forming. We are learning around the clock, in favor of novelty, all the while getting better at multitasking and being able to switch from one environment to the next.
So it goes, when picturing narrow focus and trying to improve within a certain field, to be struck by the image of a single career, a less-than-broad job description.
The only thing is, this is largely inaccurate.
For being better at one thing does require focus, but not in the form of sticking with one job, one career path. By and large, what you need is to care enough, to be passionate enough. To be ready to commit even when nobody is looking. To be ready to invest everything that you have in doing great work, even if nobody is there to praise. Or criticize, it works both ways.
If you praise your work all the while becoming your own worst critic, great work starts to look fairly easy.
The 10,000 hours formula from a different angle
I’m, within reasonable limits, sold to the idea that 10,000 hours of practice are the secret path to becoming an artist of your craft. A maestro.
Taking in consideration all the variables there are on how one can practice, this formula does lose merit. Nonetheless, in a broad sense, it works.
Irrespective of the way though, of whether your practice is truly intentional and qualitative, you still have to put in the hours.
Now being obsessed over something, regardless how you spin it, does impact the time element in this formula of ours. There is no snowball’s chance in hell that you can come even close to the 10,000 hour sealing, if you don’t narrow your focus and obsess, obsess, obsess.
Obsessing with the details and digging deeper
Back in another life when I was playing the violin, I always found repetition to be meditative. There was an ache only satisfied once I repeat enough, polish enough, a single phrase, a note even, and reach closest to what I have envisioned as perfection.
The hours spent practicing, frustrating as they were at times, I now see existed as a result of the need I had to produce great work. I, being now short of words to describe this state, simply cared enough.
Once you stop caring, you take imperfections and put them under the rug. Repeated just enough, this process can easily lead to failure, any way you prefer to describe it.
How to produce great work
This is a topic filled with so much substance and depth not merely to fill a book, but rather a series of them. But the basic premise, at least for me, is simple enough to compress into a sentence.
Caring enough about something, being passionate, obsessing over the details in what is a place only you and few others can understand, is what leads to great work. Intuitively, non-deliberately even, without much of a worry in context of neither time nor effort.
You enjoy your craft; get drunk with it, what comes out is a surprise.
Now, after more than two years of working online, I realize that vast majority of my projects failed because they lacked this simple non-intrusive flow.
The ones that did are successful beyond the point of expectation. Predictably, they are as much pleasant as well.
How to see great work
Not as a calling, nor a particular destined talent. It is, broadly speaking, something that is interesting enough so you can leave the shower longer while thinking about it; call a friend and realize that you’ve been discussing for one hour over this interesting related idea that you had; go out with friends and connect some dots and even briefly make an analogy, in your head, about some segment of the thing you are passionate about.
I love people who love great work. Seeing how others get drunk and immerse into their craft does nothing but propel me more into mine.
By extension, I love to make friends with people who work in different verticals. Through their work, through the passion they feel about it, I like to strengthen mine. This is a sure recipe of self-actualization, if ever there was any.
Do things for yourself, by yourself. This propels entrepreneurship, the start-up model, improves the quality of our services, goods, art and entertainment. And more, much more.
Obsess over how the menu of your restaurant is made, crave good design if that’s your switch; see how you can make dishes served better, atmosphere cozier, lights more ambient.
Find thousand ways to make a note sound better, perfect every phrase ending.
More is not better. Better is better. In a world of consumers, it is all about user experience. It stands for great work, satisfaction, art, happiness. And then some.