There are two schools of thought regarding personal development and getting “good” at something. At one end is the perfectionist. That’s someone who is looking to produce the masterpiece. This person will spend a lot of time studying and learning and even crafting that one perfect thing. On the other end is someone, who at face value, is not as talented, but who produces a lot.
Who will end up becoming better at something?
There’s been a decent amount of study and analysis devoted to this question. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, devoted a whole book to the matter. He found that people who succeed and become experts are those who have devoted 10,000 hours of practice and development in a certain field.
I’ve recently become inspired anew in this arena after reading a few articles that deal with the same principle.
Here is a great one called Why Quantity Should Be Your Priority: The Key To Higher Quality Is Higher Quantity. In this article, Herbet Lui shares a great story which I’ll quote below:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.
All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.
Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
So what’s the lesson here?
Sometimes we spend so much time waiting and planning to create that perfect thing that we end up missing the boat entirely.
By the way, I’m pretty convinced that persistence is much more powerful than raw talent. Some people have a lot of raw talent, but they produce little. Meanwhile, there are many who are much less talented, but are very persistent, and so end up finishing the proverbial race.
Jeff Goins recently started a campaign called 500 Words to help encourage people in this area. Check out the rules:
Write 500 words per day, every day during the month of January.
You can write more if you want, but 500 words is the minimum.
Don’t edit. Just write.
If you miss a day, pick up where you left off. Don’t make up for lost days.
Encourage, don’t criticize (unless explicitly invited to do so).
Blogging counts, but email does not.
All of this is completely free.
Again, what’s the thinking behind this campaign? Produce. Do stuff and you’ll get better.
So what about you?
What have you been putting off?
What do you dream about, but have not started because it seems too big?
I say start.
Go for it.
Want to learn to play guitar? Don’t save up money for a fancy guitar. Just start playing on whatever you have.
Want to become a better speaker? Find speaking gigs and practice.
Want to build a website? Tinker around with building one.
Turn whatever you want to get better at into a habit.
And over time, with practice, you will develop.
Question: So what have you been holding off from starting? To leave a comment click here.
[image by Ben Rosett]