Establishing a Habit of Learning

In 5 Steps

Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

to Empower Your Learners

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

Whether by choice or by circumstance, millions of people call the endless concrete jungle of New York City home. For some, the streets of New York are brutal and unforgiving, for others, they’re a place where you feel brand new—according to a Mr. Jay-Z. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that the world slowly began to see how deeply inspiring the people who walk those streets really are.

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Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York because he wanted to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers. After only a few months he realized that he was just scratching the surface of a more meaningful project. He began interviewing the people he photographed and transcribing the stories they told. The stories he would gather got deeper and deeper as people shared their greatest fears, struggles and successes. What is fascinating about his project is how relevant and powerful a single first-hand story can become.

Two years prior to the launch of HONY, on the 5th floor of the BBC building in London, Aamer Ahmed Khan and his crew were working on a way to tell a relevant and powerful story- the story of the Taliban’s malicious presence in Pakistan. They wanted to find out exactly what it was like for schoolgirls in the Swat Valley. Khan and his team eventually landed on the risky idea of finding a young girl in the area and publishing her personal experiences. Like Stanton, Khan and company wanted to illustrate the situation in Swat in the most powerful way they knew how–using a firsthand account.

The Swat Valley is located on the northwestern end of Pakistan. The natural landscape of that area would make any wanderlusting, authentic-living, #optoutsiding adventurer swoon.

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Though relatively peaceful now, Swat was once a place where decapitated bodies were left in the streets as a macabre message meant to incite fear. Beginning in 2007, the Taliban took control of the valley. During their control, the Taliban bombed hundreds of schools, and girls were not allowed to pursue any kind of education. One Swat Valley local who was particularly devastated by the education restriction was a young girl named Malala Yousafzai.


Education is Human

Named after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine, Malala seemed destined for greatness from day one. Her father ran a school in Swat and was a notable advocate for education. He would raise his daughter with a strong love of learning that would eventually become her life.

In 2009, the Taliban’s ban on girls going to school was enforced on Malala’s school. In her book, I Am Malala, she explains why the Taliban was against education.

“The Taliban is against education because they think that when a child reads a book or learns English or studies science he or she will become Westernized.” Malala’s rebuttal to that reasoning is quite profound. “Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

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If you haven’t already, stop and think about what Malala is saying. If education is human, then to learn is to be alive. If our freedom to learn is taken away, then we are no better off than if we were dead. With that logic, the right to education is worth losing your life over because the alternative is no better than death.


I Am Afraid

At about this same time, Khan and his team from the BBC were in contact with their local correspondent, Abdul Hai Kakar. Kakar knew Malala’s father and enlisted his help in the search for a schoolgirl to share her experiences. Eventually Malala caught wind of Kakar’s search and expressed her interest in helping to her father.

Though it was risky, Malala’s father agreed to let her write about her experiences. For safety reasons, she penned her entries under the pseudonym, Gul Makai, which is the name of another Pashtun heroine. On January 3, 2009, at the age of 11, Gul Makai published her first entry titled, I AM AFRAID. It wasn’t long before her posts started drawing a lot of attention.

Malala only blogged for the BBC for a little over a month, but the popularity of her posts led her to drop her anonymity and speak out in opposition of the Taliban’s rules on local TV and radio shows. Despite death threats, she continued speaking out and was even featured in a New York Times documentary.

After three years of verbal attacks on the Taliban, Malala found herself face to face with her enemy. On October 9, 2012, as Malala was on her way home from school, a masked gunman got on her bus and shot her in the head. Incredibly, after months of recovery, Malala survived the attack. Since then, her voice has only become louder. She won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and continues to advocate for girls’ rights to education in all parts of the world.

The cover of Malala's book, "I Am Malala"

The cover of Malala’s book, “I Am Malala”


Never Stop Learning

Most of us will never have to stand up for our own education to the extent Malala did. And on some level, I think that’s a tragedy. Hear me out.

I don’t think we’d all be better off if we were threatened with our lives every time we went to school or looked up a how-to video on YouTube. But I do think that it’s easy to take something for granted if we never have to evaluate just how important it is in comparison to our life. Malala mentions something to this effect in her book:

“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is.”

As humans, we understand the idea of this principle—that we appreciate things more when they are gone—but experience is the only way to truly grasp the whole of it. So without anyone threatening to take away our freedom to learn, it’s almost too easy to become lackadaisical and take our access to education for granted.

So how do we train ourselves to seek knowledge like our lives depend on it? I’m not sure. I think that’s something we each have to learn on our own. Like Malala so boldly showed us, we have to be diligent in taking responsibility for our own learning. We have to constantly remind ourselves how important education is even when no one is taking away our pens. Because without education, life is wasted.

Degreed is proud to announce a new partnership with getAbstract, a company that joins us as a leading provider of next-generation enterprise learning and development solutions.

This partnership will help employers power a culture of continuous, lifelong learning and career growth, as it will provide mutual customers with seamless, single sign-on access to getAbstract’s valuable compressed knowledge library. The library includes more than 10,000 summarized business books, economic reports and video talks, through Degreed’s revolutionary learning engagement platform, which enables people to discover, curate, share, track and value all learning – from internal systems, external vendors and over 1,200 providers of open, informal learning resources – all in one place.

“People want learning and development opportunities that aren’t just relevant to their jobs once in a while, but that help them grow and develop their careers every day,” said David Blake, Degreed’s founder and CEO. “More than 70 percent of workers we’ve surveyed say they learned something useful for their job from an article, a video or a book in the last 24 hours. And many of our customers are either already using getAbstract to empower their people do that – or they’re asking for it,” he added.

“Employers, however, need new, different solutions to enable everyday learning,” added getAbstract, Inc. CEO, Michel Koopman. “Half of the global workforce doesn’t feel like they have opportunities to learn and grow at work. That’s partly because most L&D tools, content, technology and processes were designed to deliver old-fashioned, occasional training. Companies are gravitating to Degreed,” he said, “because it’s the first enterprise learning solution built for the way people really learn now – continuously, on-the-job.”

The partnership will not only fuel everyday learning, career growth and employee engagement for workers, it will also simplify implementation and workflows for L&D professionals. Integrating getAbstract’s high-quality summaries and videos with Degreed’s innovative content ecosystem and pathway authoring tools will give instructional designers and training managers a faster, more powerful and more cost-effective toolkit for curating both informal and structured, formal learning experiences.

Learn more about Degreed here.

Degreed is honored to receive the Gold Award from the Brandon Hall Group for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology, and the Silver award for Learning Provider of the Year at the LPI awards in London.

 

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The Brandon Hall Group Gold Award capped a year of strong recognition for Degreed in 2015, with awards and honors from industry leaders like Training Industry, DILA, ELearning Magazinethe Learning and Performance Institute, ELearning by Craig Weiss, and Getting Smart. The Silver Award from the Learning and Performance Institute is a strong start for 2016 and is the first award of the year for Degreed.

“People don’t just learn once-in-a-while, from structured, formal training. We also learn every day, informally, through self-directed and social learning. If you really want a culture of continuous development, you need it all.” said CEO David Blake, “Degreed helps people discover, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning – from anywhere – all in one place. So L&D teams can spend less time managing and more time empowering.”

The Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Award was given by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, and Brandon Hall Group senior analysts and executives who evaluated the entries based upon the criteria of product, unique differentiators, value proposition, and measurable results. Degreed was also in attendance at the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence awards.

“These award-winning solutions were closely evaluated by our judges for not only their innovation, but the real results they brought to the organizations,” Brandon Hall Group Chief Executive Office Mike Cooke said. “That is what makes our technology awards program special – connecting creativity and innovation to direct business results.”

Degreed is a learning engagement solution that empowers people to find, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning in a single, unified system. Degreed streamlines corporate learning, both for L&D professionals and employees, by integrating internal systems and paid, external vendor content with the world’s largest ecosystem of free, open and low-cost informal learning resources. Click here to learn more.

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“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato

As a kid, I always dreamt of what it would be like to be free from the rule of my parents. Even though my parents were super chill, it was their job to provide a supervised environment in which I could learn and grow, and that meant establishing boundaries. As I got older and more knowledgeable, my parents would slowly trust me with more freedoms. But in the back of my mind, I was always incredibly curious about what things would be like when I could leave that supervised environment and enjoy a freedom not previously known.

I remember vividly that day I moved out to go to college. My parents dropped me off, and I realized I probably needed to go shopping. I had never shopped entirely for myself. So with this new freedom I bought six boxes of name-brand cereal, a gallon of milk and a 12-pack of Mountain Dew. I was out of my parent’s house, and I no longer had to subject my advanced palate to the garbage off-brand cereal they bought. And bonus, there was no one around to tell me I couldn’t enjoy a cold Mountain Dew with a bowl of cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was as free as an AOL Online disk at Walmart in 1997. Things were great.

I believe testing the limits of our freedoms is natural. It’s why we stay out till 3am even when we know we have work at 8. Or why we convince ourselves that we deserve a nap after work even though we haven’t been to the gym in a week, or two, or ten…. They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but how do you REALLY know unless you try?

 

The Importance of Self-Discipline

While it’s fine to test the limits of our freedom, we need to realize that we can never get everything we want if we don’t become our own parents. I guess you could call that having self discipline. There is real power in using our freedom to put constraints on ourselves.

“Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear—and doubt.”

– Harvey Dorfman

Sure, you can stay out till 3am every night—there’s no one telling you not to—but if you’re trying to land a promotion at work, is that really the best use of your freedom? Give yourself a bedtime, and give an early morning routine a try.

Self-discipline is so hard to establish because it goes against the very nature of our society today. Everywhere you go the cries of the lazy and ignorant are cheering for you to be lazy and ignorant with them. It makes them feel better about their own laziness if everyone else is ignoring their own personal potential too. Every day we are thrown on the front lines of a battle to give in to the natural temptations of instant gratification. Sleeping in feels MUCH better than dragging ourselves out of bed and into the gym… or that’s what our body will tell us as we lie in bed. So how do we fix that?

Becoming More Disciplined

Sure, we can talk about becoming more self-disciplined until we’re blue in the face, but how do we actually do it? Here are three tips to help you as you strive to become more self-disciplined.

1. Establish A Goal

A goal will give you an idea of what kind of constraints you need to put on your life. It will make it easier to set those constraints because you understand what the outcome will be from your efforts. If you don’t have a clearly defined goal, you will find it extremely hard to break out of your bad habits.

2. Commit to Action

I am a firm believer in the things that can be accomplished when we commit to something. It’s like all the rules change when you decide for yourself that you are going to commit. No one can do this for you. This is something you have to come to by yourself. If you’re having trouble committing, reevaluate your goals and make sure they really reflect what you want in life. If they don’t, you’ll have a lot of trouble committing to them.

3. Practice Positive Self-Talk

The mind controls what the body does. When you’re feeling low and ready to call it quits, give yourself a quick pep talk. Positive affirmations are basically one-line pep talks. Thousands of successful people have daily affirmations that get them pumped and ready to take on the world. If it helps, write down a few of your own affirmations and memorize them so you can remind yourself what you are working for when things get tough.

If you start with these three things, you’ll be well on your way to living a better, more accomplished life. For example, I set a goal to be healthier, so I no longer use my freedom to eat cereal with a cold Mountain Dew three times a day. Even though it was fun and exciting to begin with, my health is more important than a temporary pleasure. And though I still struggle to be a good parent to myself in other areas, no one is perfect. There’s no shame in taking it one thing at a time.

 

What are your tricks for being more self-disciplined? Tweet them to me at @bradensthompson, and follow me on Degreed here. Click the button below to get credit for reading this article.

Phillips-Hoang Nguyen-Phan of Dearborn Heights was the July 2015 winner of our Salesforce Build an App Scholarship. We asked Phillips-Hoang Nguyen-Phan a few questions to see what his goals are and get his advice for others-

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.” – G-Man

Tell us one goal you want to accomplish this year

I want to accomplish mastering computer languages that I didn’t learn yet.

How will the scholarship help you achieve your goals?

The scholarship will help me pursue an BS in Computer Science and an career as a video game programmer.

What’s one thing you can teach others?

Computer programming

What would you love to become an expert in?

Video Design

Congrats to Phillips-Hoang Nguyen-Phan on winning the scholarship. Chances are you could use some extra money to learn too! You can apply for the Salesforce Build an App Scholarship here. 

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Long-distance running is not an activity to be taken lightly. Running, in general, is the kind of sport that is truly humbling. You, and you alone, are the only person standing in the way of what you define as success. Up until 2013, I had never understood the weight of strength and difficulty that it took to run a half marathon or marathon. I had always considered myself a strong runner, as I was a very committed athlete throughout high school.

In the Spring of 2013, I signed up for a half marathon and marathon back-to-back, just on a whim. I had enough confidence and arrogance from my youth and assumed that it would carry me across the finish line. Little did I know, there was so much more to long distance running than just guts.

Training for a half-marathon or marathon, along with any other race of further distance, requires a great deal of commitment – you submit yourself to months of training yourself physically and mentally, rest, proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and many other factors that come into play during the time leading up to the big race.

After that length of time throughout a marathon training period, one earns knowledge and ability. Becoming stronger in their movements and in-tune with their capabilities. After such an intense training period could one be considered an expert?

Merriam-Webster defines an expert as “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced”

What makes a person an expert in any given field is the amount of time and work that it took for that person to arrive at where they are; to be able to speak confidently, act, and react with their abilities to handle a given situation.

Marathon training is all about time and effort. The time that it takes to prepare, the time that it takes to recover, and the time that it takes to finish the race. Marathon training is a long game, made up of concentrated efforts that built up over time to create the endurance needed to accomplish a goal.

It may take more time for some individuals to do any of the things required to successfully prepare for a marathon, but that doesn’t discount their level of expertise in relation to knowing what it takes to complete a race of that distance.

A full marathon is 26.2 miles. 26.2 miles worth of mistakes. 26.2 miles worth of pain and joy. 26.2 miles of focus and dedication- just like the journey to expertise.

The average global time it takes for an individual to finish a marathon is 4 hours and 21 minutes.  That’s a lot of time that could be used to accomplish a thousand other things, yet, instead you’re running.

Behind the final race time is weeks and months, sometimes years of preparation. Marathon training teaches us about expertise because it teaches us about time and hard work, the very things that are essential to learning, practicing, and perfecting any skill. The very things that make people into experts.

November

When the temperature begins to change from “bearable with a hoodie” to “don’t go out without a coat” you know November is upon us. To me, it seems like once Halloween is over, everyone goes into Christmas mode and November just gets skipped over. I’m a strict no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving kind of guy. I’ve always felt bad for November. So to stick up for the month that gets ignored, here are three things to learn that will help you slow down and appreciate all that November has to offer.

  1. Why Election Day is on a Tuesday in November

Voting is one of the most important functions of our society. Back in the day, states used to be able to hold their voting day any time within a 34-day window before the first Wednesday in December. However, that started to cause some problems. The outcome of earlier elections swayed heavily the outcome of elections held closer to December. In 1845, in order to make the process more effective and fair, congress passed a law that mandated all elections be held the first Tuesday of November.

So what’s up with Tuesday? You can blame that on the farmers. Most people in the 1800s were farmers and the polling locations usually required a day’s worth of travel to get to. Since most people were in church on Sunday and farmer’s markets were generally on Wednesday, Tuesday was decidedly the most convenient day for everyone to be able to make it out to vote.

In addition, the beginning of November was also most the convenient because it didn’t interfere with the planting or harvesting season, and the weather wasn’t usually as cold and unbearable as it is in December. So there you go, we vote on a Tuesday in November because it allowed 19th century farmers to go to church and sell their crops while still being able to cast their votes.

  1. Where Veterans Day came from

On November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., an armistice to end World War I went into effect. At the time, World War I had been considered the “war to end all wars.” Little did anyone know how untrue that was. However, to commemorate the end to the war, the year after the armistice president Woodrow Wilson organized the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

On June 1, 1954, November 11 officially became Veterans Day instead of Armistice Day in order to honor all American veterans “for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

  1. How football and Thanksgiving became two peas in a pod

The annual Turkey Bowl: the one time a year uncle Dave gets to relive his glory days and everyone has to listen to him spout off his tall tales. Even if he did throw the game-winning touchdown in high school, you’d never be able to tell with how many interceptions he throws Thursday morning. The tradition of football on Thanksgiving dates back a lot further than I ever thought. In fact, it’s said that sports and activities were even part of the very first Thanksgiving in 1621.

Football evolved from an apparently “crude game of ball kicking” on college campuses around the 1840’s. Eventually people began implementing rules and football became a popular college sport. The very first organized college game was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869. At that time the rules prohibited players from running with the ball. They could only throw it, kick it, or head butt it.

Over the next six years, more college teams formed and an actual Intercollegiate Football Association was created. In 1876, the IFA scheduled the championship game to be played on Thanksgiving Day in front of an eager crowd of paying spectators. From there, football became an integral part of Thanksgiving day.

And there you have it! Three things you probably didn’t know about November. If you have any other interesting facts about November, I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below or tweet them at me @bradensthompson, and  follow me on Degreed here.

Cristina Smith of Peoria, Arizona was the June 2015 winner of our Salesforce Build an App Scholarship. We asked Cristina a few questions to see what her goals are and get her advice for others-

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.” –Deepak Chopra

Tell us one goal you want to accomplish this year

In the next year, I’d like to get a summer job or internship having to do with art or design. I want to be a character designer, and I think having experience would help prepare me for a more permanent job after graduation.

How will the scholarship help you achieve your goals?

This scholarship is a big step in helping me pay for college for next semester, and helps me stay a little ahead of possible student debt after I graduate. The scholarship will be going towards my classes and supplies, all helping me toward my goal of becoming a character designer for animation or video games after graduation.

What’s one thing you can teach others?

Perseverance, since this is my first time getting a scholarship outside of the one I’ve gotten from college after applying for three years since attending.

What would you love to become an expert in?

Creating stories and characters inclusive to minorities, to make media just a little more welcoming for everyone. I’d like to expand my design and creativity skills to do all this, and it’d be great to make possible fictional role models for all kids to look up to.

Congrats to Cristina on winning the scholarship. Chances are you could use some extra money to learn too! You can apply for the Salesforce Build an App Scholarship here. 

Brett Allison of DeLand, Florida was the August 2015 winner of our Salesforce Build an App Scholarship. We asked Brett a few questions to see what his goals are and get his advice for others-

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Find your passion and pursue it with everything you’ve got.

Tell us one goal you want to accomplish this year

I want to get married.

How will the scholarship help you achieve your goals?

This scholarship will help me tons in achieving my BS in Environmental Science and then going on to pursue a career in promoting and installing alternative energy in Central America and the United States.

What’s one thing you can teach others?

Surfing.

What would you love to become an expert in?

Alternative Energy.

Congrats to Brett on winning the scholarship. Chances are you could use some extra money to learn too! You can apply for the Salesforce Build an App Scholarship here. 

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“Choose to struggle with something – we live in a culture of the quick and easy and it has made us impatient and lazy.” – Jake Weidmann, One of only 12 Master Penmen in the world

Becoming an expert at anything takes just a tad more effort than typing those six letters into your Twitter profile—though a lot of people try to get away with it.

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Expertise is elusive. Too often people get stuck in the doldrums of partial expert somewhere between “holy crap this is too difficult” and “just one more episode…”. Becoming an expert at anything takes patience and focus, but those traits are continually thrown under the bus in search of instant gratification. There is a silver lining to the increasing acceptance of half-assed effort: there is plenty of room at the top for those who are willing to put in the work.

Experts in Practice

I live for the knowledge I can find between the covers of a book. I could go on for days about how books can pave your path to expertise, but I’ll save that for another time. A few years ago I cracked open my first Malcolm Gladwell book, Outliers. In the book, Gladwell dives into all kinds of research and elaborates on a myriad of stories to show why some people become extraordinary. Arguably one of the most popular ideas from his book is the concept of how much time someone needs to spend devoted to their work to become an expert.

In 1973, Herbert A. Simon and William G. Chase analyzed the intensely strategic game of chess in a paper titled, Skill in Chess. The purpose of their research was to try and understand exactly what it took to become an expert (an actual level of expertise in the field of chess), a master and a grandmaster—grandmaster being the highest possible ranking.

What they found was actually pretty cool.

“There appears not to be on record any case (including Bobby Fischer) where a person has reached grandmaster level with less than about a decade’s intense preoccupation with the game. We would estimate, very roughly, that a master has spent perhaps 10,000 to 50,000 hours staring at chess positions.”

These findings led to the creation of an entire field of study within psychology. One of the spin-off studies came from psychologist John Hayes. He found that in a study of 76 classical composers, 73 of them didn’t write their greatest work until they had been composing for at least ten years.

Gladwell drew from both of these studies and brought to light some other examples that fit in with this 10,000 hour rule (estimating 1,000 hours a year.) For example, if you didn’t grow up under a rock, you’ve probably heard of The Beatles. Though they established themselves as one of the greatest rock bands of all time, they were a pretty subpar band when they started. What eventually set them apart from other bands was a gig they landed as a house band in a strip club. Not exactly what you would imagine as the most ideal environment for becoming great. In just over a year and a half during their residency, they played together 270 nights. In 1964 when The Beatles really started to gain some traction with their music, they had performed live roughly 1200 times. Just try to fathom that number for a second. Most bands never perform 1200 times in a lifetime. By the time they put out their best work, they had easily surpassed their 10,000 hours. 

The Language of Expertise

Gladwell also talks about experts in computer programming, one of those being Bill Joy. If you don’t know, Joy’s contributions to the world of computers is right up there with Bill Gates. In the 70’s, Joy wrote vi, one of the first screen-based text editors, which is astonishingly still used today. His company, Sun Microsystems, also wrote the programming language, Java. I don’t know much about computers, but I know enough to know that that’s pretty remarkable.

But reading through Joy’s story, one particular instance really caught my interest. When Joy was taking his oral exams for his PhD, he confounded his examiners with an elaborate algorithm that he just made up on the spot. How could he have done that? Complex algorithms shouldn’t just appear out of thin air.

In the Skill in Chess paper, Simon and Chase found that proficiency in Chess is strangely similar to proficiency in language.

As the two began to try and understand the possibilities of moves in a single game, they came to the conclusion that a master knows roughly 50,000 different patterns. From that number, they drew another fascinating conclusion: the time a master needs to spend perfecting his or her chess game is comparable to the time a highly literate person (someone knowing 50,000+ words) must spend reading.

For the most elite chess players, the moves of the game become like words and sentences of an entirely new language. Eventually a player can become so expert at the game that they begin to recognize a good strategic move in mere seconds.

When someone asks you a question in a conversation, you can quickly pull words and phrases together to form a sentence without even really thinking about the complex process of identifying words, processing their meaning, coming up with a response, and then voicing that response.

You have spent thousands of hours storing thousands of combinations and rules in your brain to be used for communication. Eventually, you reached a level where those processes run automatically. When Bill Joy was presented with a question in a language he knew as second nature, his years of practice and study took over and he came up with an algorithm that, as one of the examiners stated, was like “Jesus confounding his elders.” 

The Problem with “Magic Numbers”

Since so many things seem to match up with this 10,000 hour rule, it’s easy for people to shoot for that number like it’s a magic number for obtaining expertise. As with every one-size-fits-all theory, the 10,000 hour rule has been the subject of some intense criticism.

Though Gladwell didn’t actually come up with the idea, he took it and popularized it. If you search Ask Jeeves (or whatever search engine you prefer) for “Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule,” you’ll find pages of articles refuting the idea.

And you know what? A lot of the differing opinions are right. However, most of them appear relevant on the outside but are actually comparing apples to oranges. And Gladwell has made many of his own counter arguments to that point.

Gladwell clarifies in a New Yorker article that not anyone can practice anything for 10,000 hours and become a world-class expert. There has to be some level of innate talent present. For example, Gladwell refers to a South African researcher who tested over ten thousand boys and never saw a slow boy became fast. 
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“Achievement is talent plus preparation.” – Gladwell

If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. But on the flip side, Gladwell acknowledges the story of a high jumper, Donald Thomas, who became world class after only a few months. So there are definitely instances where the 10,000 hour rule doesn’t apply.

To further that point, David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, found that some sports like skeleton, darts or wrestling don’t follow the 10,000 hour rule. The argument in these cases is that these activities are simple (compared to chess or computer programming) and don’t require the same depth of complex knowledge to perfect.

“Cognitively complex activities take many years to master because they require that a very long list of situations and possibilities and scenarios be experienced and processed.” – Gladwell

Your Mom Was Wrong

So what’s the take away from all this? Contrary to what your mom tells you, you probably can’t be an expert at anything you want—even if you give it your all. At the very least, you need to have some level of innate talent in the skill you wish to master.

But what this does mean is that you can be an expert at something! (That is, if you’re willing to put in a ridiculous amount of work) No one is talentless. You may just have to work harder at finding what you are talented at, but I promise it’s in there. Don’t give up no matter how many times you find yourself thinking, “Holy crap this is too difficult!”- push through the challenge.

Struggle for something worthwhile. Become an expert. Change the world.

 

 

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