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TRUE GRIT

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boxer-girl

Over and over and over I played the same 4 bars.

No, not my local Peacock’s Perch, Blue Mule, Barking Parrot, or the Copper Mug. I’m talking music and guitar practice.

I’ve been doing this for almost a week now.

da capo: The same 4 bars repeated over and over on the guitar from the beautiful song Angelina by Tommy Emmanuelle. The song’s intricate-contorted-finger movements and timing have pushed me beyond my level of comfort and ability. My bee-sting-callused fingertips keep squawking at me to give up.

This is good. This is great actually.

This is grit.

I’m working on grittiness. Beethoven was gritty. Edison was gritty. Martin Luther King Jr. was gritty. Lives filled with roadblocks and challenges.

With each passing year I admire and respect the grittiest souls amongst us more and more.  If you’re a gritty person (I’ll define you a bit more in a minute if you’re not sure), I am a drooling fan of yours.

grit-book.jpg

Along this line of thinking, I’m reading a popular book right now entitled, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. My mind likes to have both a non-fiction as well as a fiction book running simultaneously (my current fiction book is titled Shantaram)

Duckworth has climbed over Malcolm Gladwell’s back, building on his theme in Outliers, another favourite book of mine that popularized the 10,000-Hour Rule.

Gladwell recounts how the Beatles performed live in Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964 before attaining huge fame, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time.

beatles.jpg

Bill Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.

I’ve inhabited a relatively lazy life. 10,000 hours was craziness to me. It always seemed like too much work, too much effort. I smugly rationalized my attitude, tricking myself by believing, “Work Smart, not Hard”. 

Slipping into the time travel machine that is my mind, I recall in my early, mainly school-bound years, I was blessed/cursed with a mind that could get by on cruise mode.

One quick review of my Shakespearean Coles Notes and I could score 80% on the English Lit test, so why go bat-crap all-Jeopardy-perfect crazy for 90 or 100%. Hard work was for suckers, right? I felt a sense of righteous superiority.

I was a mini Donald Trump sans comb-over or whatever that thing is that sits on top of his head. Yup, scary.

Hell, even Miss Putns, my Grade 2 teacher at Glen Echo School, commented in my report card that, “Larry needs to work on his superiority attitude.

Grade 2!

Humility didn’t come any easier to me than grittiness.

Wikipedia defines grit as:

“perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Those individuals who are deemed more successful and influential than their contemporary counterparts typically possess traits above and beyond that of normal ability. While ability is still critically important, these individuals also possess “zeal” and “persistence of motive and effort.” Grit is conceptualized as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback. Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to “stay the course” amid challenges and set-backs.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance … great alliteration for a book title, and I love the concept, the idea of passion. But the perseverance part has been my Waterloo.

I’ve embraced passion like sweet chocolate candy to my soul.

When I feel enthusiastic about something: music, renovation projects, gardening, exercise, party planning… I dive in with childlike zeal and fervour. I soar through the clouds in a glider on a sunny updraft. The endorphins drive me forward like a Tesla, no driver needed, the energy is organic and unforced.

And if the project or object of my zeal is short-term, well, I know I can pull off amazing stuff (oops, there’s that shitty righteous superiority rising to the surface once more!).

Passion I possess.

running passion.jpg

Running Passion…

But if the undertaking grows long-winded or too tough, creeping too far out of my comfort zone, I’ve generally felt an inner weariness that infects my enthusiasm like a nasty virus. I feel my gusto and energy drain away back to the ocean in low ebb.

I’ve eaten all the pizza my appetite can handle, and I leave the less desirable crusts behind for the scavengers to finish up. Another unfinished, another incomplete project.

I’m a big boy now and I wear big boy pants.

I’ve seen enough evidence in my years to know that those who succeed in their worthwhile efforts are often not the smartest, the brightest, the most gifted. It’s more about the determination, the perseverance, the grit.

I know what I have to do. How about you?

Chewing away at my lack of perseverance and growing my grit is a project, a goal. I like goals. Always have.

My new attitude going forward is “Work Smart AND Work Hard”.

Those of you who have grit learned that lesson long before I did. Thank you for your patience waiting for me to catch up.

By the way? Those 4 bars of beautifully harmonic Angelina?

They sound FANTASTIC… now… only 106 more bars to go!

GRIT!

glen and willie.jpg

Passion AND Grit…

 

 

 

 

My Supercilious Superpower…

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I was born with a superpower…


superman

 

I’ll bet you have one too …

Check out my cape … nice, eh?

Life is about the little things … the small stuff.

Our lives are like tiny grains of sand on a huge expansive beach. Over the years we get swept up in the swells of the tide, running in, slipping out … sometimes we’re blown by a sharp gust of lush tropical wind, sometimes laying stock-still under the burning rays of the sun.

But always, we live a tiny existence in a huge universe where we bump into other grains of sand, spend a few brief seconds rubbing close together – liking, loving, hating, laughing, crying – and then migrate to another area of the beach to where other grains oscillate and do it all over again.

I don’t know if grains of sand, like snowflakes, are each uniquely different, but I suspect that is the case.

My grain of sand is called Larry and I’ve rubbed up against lots of other sand grains over the years.

And each grain I met had a superpower uniquely fashioned by them. I have a friend who can repair any mechanical motor with his eyes closed. I have another friend who can multitask so calmly and effectively in her job that she can solve 3 people’s problems simultaneously. Yet another old chum from high school and college can teach blood banking concepts that are so complicated they make my head spin. I have a sister-in-law who can crochet anything. SUPERPOWERS…

Here’s just a partial list of things I (sometimes) enjoy and try to do, but technically, I pretty much suck at – NOT superpowers:

  1. Windsurfing
  2. Triathlons
  3. Playing violin
  4. Surfing
  5. Writing Novels
  6. Golf
  7. Dancing
  8. Small talk
  9. Holding my Alcohol
  10. Patience
  11. Kissing and Sex
  12. Knitting
  13. Drawing
  14. Board Games
  15. Auto Mechanics

And now, a listing of things I’m pretty good at – only ONE a superpower:

  1. Spelling
  2. Playing Guitar
  3. Running Long Distance
  4. Remembering Numbers (SIN, Credit Cards, Drivers Licence)
  5. Writing Blogs and Short Stories
  6. Listening
  7. Kissing and Sex
  8. Cooking
  9. Hockey/Football
  10. Learning Foreign languages
  11. Gardening
  12. Swimming
  13. Tennis
  14. Trivial Pursuit
  15. Cycling

 

Notice how kissing and sex made it onto both lists? I’ll leave that for you to figure out …

But truly, my SUPERPOWER is Spelling … yup, I don’t try, but I can’t make an error.

Sorry, that’s not true … I can, but it’s infrequent and even if it’s wrong, it’s likely because I’m not paying attention, and not that I don’t know how to spell the word.

primitive spelling bee

It’s a really silly superpower, but it is what it is… I didn’t ask for it. Blame my Mom and Dad.

But, like Superman’s powers… my spelling superpower is one that was bred into me.

I’ve spoken before about Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule of practice for developing mastery in any area that requires skill and knowledge. It’s a great concept and if absorbed fully, you can accomplish just about anything in life.

For me, spelling skills didn’t require 10,000 or even 1,000 hours on my part and so this makes it different. This is a genetic trait that allowed me to spew out the spelling of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (I want you to know that I double-checked the word’s spelling in GOOGLE … hit it dead on first time!) right after I made my first cry in the delivery room … waaa … S-U-P-E-R-C-A-L-I-F-R-A-G-I-L-I-S-T-I-C-E-X-P-I-A-L-I-D-O-C-I-O-U-S waaa … the nurses were shocked as they wiped the cheesy vernix off me. I’m a legend on the maternity ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

cry baby

But spelling doesn’t give me the buzz, the internal WOW, that I get when I work hard at something that doesn’t flow naturally, and see improvement.

I’ve adapted Gladwell’s guidelines into my approach to life. These work for my own purposes and my ADHD personality. I use the 1,000 hour rule where I pursue and learn skills to a highly satisfactory+ but not mastery level.

I accept that I’ll never be a true master of anything except spelling because I lack the patience. But I get enormous happiness in my days from trying new things and improving even just a little bit in those areas that I really enjoy… playing guitar, writing, running, songwriting, cooking …

Personal Aside: I’ve been arrogant all my life about my superpower and I’ve looked down on others who can’t spell accurately because of it. If I went to therapy the psychologist would likely say it’s a result of my inferiority complex over so many other things I don’t do well.

But put aside the folly of my arrogance. Why?

Because I want to encourage you to find and acknowledge, or better still, develop your own superpower. You might be like me and discover it’s something you were born with … bred in the bone.

Or, maybe you’ve developed a passion for and persisted at something that was important to you and unearthed a potential talent.

What’s the role of talent? Very small. But you have to start with it. Talent is the seed of skill. Passion is what makes the seed grow into a beautiful flower.

Don’t force yourself to learn something if you don’t burn for it or it’s not a natural aptitude. If you’re not fully engaged and passionate about your potential superpower, it won’t happen.

When you find yourself waking up at 5 am wanting to jump from your bed with eager, fiery thoughts to learn and move forward with your budding talent, you know you’ve found a potential superpower that is all yours.

Find your unique voice. And when you speak in that voice, the world hears something it has never heard before. Use the concept of idea sex to mix and blend your diverse, seemingly unrelated thoughts and develop something that belongs to you.

So, pick up your cape… or maybe first, recognize that you have a cape that fits only you.

Then love yourself for owning that cape.

bright bulb

 

The 1,000 Hour Rule

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10000 hours

I’m just too ADHD for Malcolm Gladwell’s renowned 10,000 hour rule of mastering something … ANYTHING.

Sure, it worked for the Beatles and for Bill Gates and countless prominent others – but like American Senator Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle during the 1988 vice-presidential debate:

I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy“.

And I am no Paul McCartney or Steve Jobs or Margaret Mead.

These are all extraordinary people who bled buckets of blood and sweat over years and years to pursue and perfect just one special thing.

Songwriting. The Personal Computer. Anthropology.

paul-mccartney

They focused their entire beings on their passion with unbounded dedication. It’s bloody admirable and I celebrate their accomplishments. It’s like they won gold medals in the Life Olympics.

But for this Man on the Fringe, anything I do for more than an hour or two at a time becomes a burden … yes, a job. Even my laboratory job that I enjoy becomes a job after 4 hours at my desk, so I’m packing it in in two weeks and indulging my ADHD side.

I accept and sometimes even celebrate that I’ll never be a master of anything.  Huh, you say? Why?

I know Mr. Miyagi would be disappointed in me… wax on, wax off… oh, go catch flies with chopsticks Mr. Miyagi!

I’m resolving to be a mini-master using the 1,000 hour rule.

Yup. 1,000 hours.

One thousand hours is no small feat.

Concentrated effort that is expended for that time frame will take you or me to a level well above the norm – whether its playing violin, sinking golf putts, or painting landscapes. It just won’t make us Anne Sophie Mutter, or Tiger Woods, or Salvador Dali.

Let’s put 1,000 hours into context ’cause it’s pretty meaningless when I just put it out there as a number.

A personal example: I’ve been writing this blog once each week (more or less) for a little more than 2 years now.

On average, I guesstimate that I spend 5-6 hours perched wiggling and squirming in front of my keyboard for each post. It’s not easy to avoid the lure of porn for such long periods. Modern man wasn’t made this way …

Putting all of my grade-school math skills into play tells me that 52 weeks x 2 years x an average of 5.5 hours… equals…

572 hours

572 hrs2

This means it’s going to take me about 182 weeks of writing these posts to reach 1,000 hrs of writing. That’s three and a half years of consistent week-in week-out blog writing at a pace of 5 and a half hours a week.

That’s a time frame I can live with. I hope – and feel confident – that my writing skills will continually improve at this pace AND it lets me do a bunch of other things I love to do all at the same time.

Take those same numbers and plug them into whatever your great interest or passion is: piano, knitting, dumpster diving, baton twirling, soap making, archery, Russian lessons, disco dancing … the list is endless but the point remains the same.

You can become really good at a number of things in just a few years with some reasonable focus and effort.

No SuperHuman skills necessary.

Man in leotard

See… anyone can do it …

If I was trying to achieve the 10,000 hour level of accomplishment, I would need to multiply my daily efforts by 2 to 10 times in order to meet the MASTER level within 4-25 years.

This is why I could never be a great entrepreneur. The passion and focus needed is not a part of my internal makeup … it just isn’t.

There’s something beautiful about doing something for the first time.

If I tried to dedicate 10,000 hours to merely one area of interest, I’d be sailing away at the end of my years with many fewer life firsts – and there are so many first adventures I don’t want to miss.

So … Paul, John, George and Ringo’s troubles are all far away with their “Yesterday”‘s fame. Bill Gates can feel relaxed sitting by his fireplace knowing I will never replace his “Windows”.

Dear Mr. Gladwell:

I’m only 1/10th the person that you write about in your excellent book (Outliers) but I’m content knowing that I can live a great life without being GREAT.

There will be no gold medal for this guy but I’ll stand on the podium all the same – silver medallion swinging in the breeze from my neck – with a smile just as big as if I was the winner.

That is, if I can fit the medal presentation in between German language class and creating a fantastic Chicken Kiev a la Julia Child .

Sincerely,

Man On The Fringe

Dilbert 10000 hr rule