My 10,000 hours of Practice

In Malcolm Caldwell’s book, Outliers, he talks about people who are masters in certain areas and that this level of mastery takes 10,000 hours of practice. This leaves me wondering what could I honestly say I have ‘mastered’ by this definition. I am known as someone who starts many things and gets to a certain level of ‘know-how’ and moves on. I doubt many would say I was looking to master anything.

That being said, I did recently attend a writing workshop and one of the facilitators offered a wonderful gem of wisdom. For all of us in the crowd, who would writing about our own life experiences, she said, “Your own life experience, well that is area you can each say you have 10,000 hours of experience in.” Therefore, I am a master of those stories. Writing them down is another skill all together – but it was good to know I at least have the hours covered to I have mastered the content of my book!

So indeed I have been writing down my stories. This is a slow process and not one I am prepared to share yet with the world wide web. However, I am beginning to tap into another potential area of mastery for myself. I think I could say I am a master in surviving.

First let’s look at the definition of survive.

v. sur·vived, sur·viv·ing, sur·vives
1. To remain alive or in existence.
2. To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere: families that were surviving in tents after the flood.
3. To remain functional or usable: I dropped the radio, but it survived.
1. To live longer than; outlive: She survived her husband by five years.
2. To live, persist, or remain usable through: plants that can survive frosts; a clock that survived a fall.
3. To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after: survived child abuse.

Indeed, I have ‘survivied’ a good deal longer than expected. The simple stories of this come from reviewing the years of dealing with cancer, (four times); there’s the ‘surviving’ child trauma (no need to go into details); then surviving ‘remembering the flashbacks’ etc.. from those younger years; also, there were my years as ‘only one of two white kids’ in my high school. I have a long list of these type of experiences. The one thing that I learned through all of that was: when faced with life or death, the best strategy is to be in the moment and access some sense of faith, well-being and humor, at least that has carried me through.

Even today, when my life is not really about that degree of drama, I can see the signs of my mastery when it comes to preparing for a colonscopy. I had to have one just recently. Those types of test bring up lots of things for me with my medical past dealing with cancer. So I do get myself into that life/death mentality and in that space, I shine. I find a way to take care of myself and be good at setting boundaries around what I need. I also am comfortable with the people I interact with. Meaning all the medical folks, the insurance folks, the people in the waiting room. Suddenly, I am at ease in this environment.

I am also good at coping with a setback. It is possible that without a setback I get a bit lost. I don’t like admitting to that. In many ways, I have been creative in ensuring that I regularly have enough drama in my life. I work with leaders and in organizations most often when they are in a crisis. At The Haven, the group work is primarily drawn from strong emotional events in people’s lives. I am am comfortable there.

In my own life, I struggle with the ordinary day-to-day. Generally speaking, I do my best work when pushed or at the last minute. I would really like to shift that. However, I first may need to really honor my ‘outlier’ skill set.

There may be a way to more creatively and consciously draw upon this skill set. Yes – I can honestly say I have 10,000 hours of practice in ‘surviving’ – remaining functional and useful against the odds. Yes, that was even how I got on my high basketball team. Not because I was a great basketball player but by selling my coach on how slow I was and that he needed that skill set. Indeed, survivial at it’s best. I knew I couldn’t out shoot or out run anyone on the court – but I also knew they needed someone to slow down the run-and-gun scorers – that was me.

I am good when things seem the darkest. I seem to see the stars in the blackest of nights. I like that about myself. Thus this blog is to honor my outlier skill set of surviving!!

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