Link: Talent Code: Is this Great, or is it Creepy? The (short) video illustrates one very potent question…
This kid embodies the thorny question we all deal with. How much effort do we put into building narrow expertise, and how much into the broader social muscles? In other words, how much should we specialize to build the skills that make us unique, and how much should we spend time developing the muscles we need to make and maintain relationships, control emotions, and learn to communicate with others?
If I make myself think about the way I’ve spent the last three years of my life, I end up with one gigantic obsession with story. Several hundred books read. Dozens of characters in my head at any given time. Even my non-fiction has a heavy narrative bent; books about language, reading, or true stories (oh and don’t forget the books about writing!). All the movies and TV I watch, I am looking for the story, guessing plot twists, noting characterization, laughing at plot holes. (I must be hard to be around).
But we hear over and over again that this is what it takes. You want to create something worth sharing? Spend 10,000 hours doing it. Write those million words to get them out of your system. Read 10,000,000 words before you really learn to read them.
I don’t disagree, but when I had initially heard these statistics I don’t think I ever realized quite what that meant. If I had to guess, I’m past the halfway point but not by much (for writing). For reading, I think I have read more than 10 million words. And I’ve been a psycho-obsessive story freak for the past three years. Is that what it takes?
There are some facts hiding here. I am a better reader than I was three years ago. I read faster, absorb and retain more, I enjoy reading more, I have a better idea of what I’m going to like and I spend less time worrying about whether or not I’ll enjoy the book to make it worth the cost. The more books one has, the less wary one becomes of picking up more. The more books one reads, the less problematic it is to occasionally hit a dud. And, the more likely I’ll be able to spot a dud before I plunk down cash for it.
I’m sure part of that is reader psychology. Once we discover authors, we are more likely to pick up their next book or their backlist. We’ll check out their website and have more books to read in the future as that author writes more. So discovering an author is often discovering an exponential amount of books, the first book that hooks, then all their books past and future…
Then your online bookstore gets a whiff of your new interest and has a slew of even more books that are like that one you just bought (it’s a great time to love books!)
This video brings up a lot of questions about raising kids, clearly, but it also speaks to the importance of using our time wisely. That child has put a whole lot of time into training and preparing to do what he’s doing. For us less-superhuman adults, doing anything well requires an amazing amount of time investment. To do one thing, we sacrifice another thing. In choosing to specialize, we leave behind other specializations and even being a jack of all trades.
And likely, to be really good at something, you may have to love it with a creepy/freakish obsession.