Friday, July 29, 2011

The Time of Your Life

I want to do the following things right now:

- Play video games
- Go for a run
- Write
- Hang out with Erika
- Play guitar
- Learn how to shoot a F$%^#ing hockey puck properly

Why? Because I want to:

- Be good at my job
- Be in good shape
- Be a good writer
- Be a good husband
- Be a good guitar player
- Be a non-pathetic hockey player

When you look at this list though, how many of those things are actually possible to put serious time towards in an evening? Maybe 3 at the best? And that’s assuming you’re ok with not just vegging out a little after work.

Now let’s think about how many times a week you need to do the things on List A in order to accomplish the goals on List B. I would argue that if you actually want to accomplish the items on List B at a high level you need to do them at least 3 days a week, and if you’re not already good at them you need to do them 4 times to get any better. Oh sure, you can do things less often, but then you end up with this:

(If that’s not enough, you can come over and I’ll play guitar for you)

My point is, as you get older you need to pick: Do you want to be an expert at something or do you want to be average? Personally, I think many people focus on too many things and as a result float along as average in a bunch of areas. If you want to be an expert though, it becomes pretty clear that you need to let some casual interests fall to the wayside… and trust me, it’s hard to swallow that if I’m to be an expert writer it means letting go of some long-dreamed dreams. I’ll never have a wicked wrist-shot, I’ll never be able to wow a campfire with the guitar, and I’ll never be a pirate. But those are the sacrifices you make.

Since Erika's in Vancouver, I've settled on Writing, Running, and Games tonight. This concludes my writing, and now I'm going for a run.

How do you split up your time?


  1. Paul, sometimes I think you and I might be twins. Except that I'm likek five months older than you. And we have different parents.

    But seriously, I have a terrible shot in hockey and I'm trying to do waaaay too many things and so mostly am just half-assed at a lot of them. My personal philosophy of "What I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm!" is getting harder as I get older. I'm tired!

  2. Good post. I struggle with the same dilemma as well. I know it sounds lame, but honestly, I've focused on things that help my family. Spending time with my wife, being an attentive father, cooking lots, exercising lots, and improving my programming skills. At the end of the day, most of these are fun and at the same time have more benefit to me in the long run than playing guitar like Jimi Hendrix or being a single handicap golfer.

  3. In "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell talks about the idea (taken from other researchers) that it requires 10,000 hours of practice at something to become a true master. I think the question gets to be one of goals. Is your intent to become a true hockey master or to enjoy playing the game with friends? Is your intent to become a master musician or to become more proficient with an instrument that helps you express to yourself in a way that's different from your usual forms of communication.

    I'm more on the side of scattering my attention as it gives me more flexibility to enjoy hanging out and sharing interests with a lot of different people. That said, I agree that the hard price of that is a lack of deep proficiency in any single skill. I find this particularly beneficial as a father because it allows me to introduce the girls to lots of different things as they grow up so that *hopefully* they'll be able to find their 10,000 hour skill early on...