10,000 hours

amywink April 25th, 2011

I received some more photos of the Fun show this week, taken by Malen Dell and her lovely lovely lovely Canon EOS 60D camera that I am now drooling over and plan to buy one like one day (save, save, save, save).

This one is delightful but I am working on getting past how my hands are not correctly placed (too far to the outside) so I can enjoy the photo fully.


And this one, which I love for the forward motion, Will’s ears pricked correctly–practically impossible to capture without cookies or peppermints.


And I am still really enjoying my ribbons, relishing the achievement of my first show and our good experience. As I head into the summer, I am recharged for dressage practice, which has returned me to a topic I have thought about in relation to writing, the idea of practice.

In the current too-simple discussion of Talent v. Just Practice, those who side with Just Practice suggest that all we need to do to achieve extraordinary achievement is to practice something, anything, for about 10,000 hours. This may very well be true, but 10,000 hours is quite a lot of time to devote to something one might not be interested in for more than, oh, say, an hour, or even moderately longer, perhaps 100 hours. Given the research on creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Creativity, Flow, Finding Flow, etc, etc), a significant aspect of this equation remains that mysterious element of drive. What makes a person want to spend 10,000 hours on the pursuit? What tutelary god sparks the move toward those 10,000 hours? What genius guides the dedication to practice?

Leo Babauta writes in his blog, ZenHabits about the steps to achieving the Flow state of optimal experience:

Step 1: Choose work you love. If you dread a task, you’ll have a hard time losing yourself in it. If your job is made up of stuff you hate, you might want to consider finding another job. Or consider seeking projects you love to do within your current job. At any rate, be sure that whatever task you choose is something you can be passionate about.

And so, back to finding the spark that fires the dedication.

I am lucky in that my own work of teaching and writing is filled with moments of flow–when teaching goes well, it’s thrilling, when writing goes well, complete happiness– however, until I started driving, I never felt the desire to practice in the same way. I never practiced adequately in my 10 years of violin playing–not that I did not enjoy playing in the orchestra, which I did very much, but more likely that I did not enjoy playing alone and I found the requirements of learning the fundamentals dull (scales? bleh) and disconnected from the experience of playing music. Why that experience did not trip my perfectionistic tendencies toward more practice, I do know know. Instead, I believe, it tripped the parts of perfectionism that make achievement impossible, those that say “I cannot get this right quickly enough, so I will never get it right and what’s the point?” That is a tricky stretch to navigate in any journey.

In driving, dressage is the fundamental work. It creates precision in cones and obstacles. Speed may seem more exhilarating than moving in a straight line diagonally across the field, or turning a perfect circle, but the communication established through dressage work, makes all the other aspects of driving possible. And that thing that flips on the positive perfectionist switch and sets up the desire for that elusive pursuit, fans the desire for practice. I am, of course, far far far from 10,000 hours. Since I started tracking (2/14/10) for the American Driving Society’s Hours to Drive program, I have logged only 59.5 hours in my journey to the 100 hour pin but I have manage keep up my practice and my circles are improving.

Here is a circle from March 26, using the cone markers to place my wheels and keep my eyes focused on the circle ahead:

And here is a circle I made yesterday, in an unmarked portion of the pasture, in an imagined dressage arena. picture-5.jpg

In the continuous bend of a circle, there’s a moment when you feel the circle. I felt the circle was good before I looked at my GPS map. It was the first time I’d felt the circle driving Will. I’d felt it driving Dol at Francine’s, just a few times, but it was wonderful to create the circle with Will, a moment of complete connection. We will, of course, make many more bad circles, but this one was quite the achievement.

One Response to “10,000 hours”

  1. Stevenon 25 Apr 2011 at 9:25 am

    Your circle is, well, to my eyes, perfect! My knitting group was talking about drive and perfectionism just this past weekend. What is it that makes one knitter fix a mistake, another ignore it, and yet another throw the whole project in a corner and never look at it again?

    Here’s to keeping at it.

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