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Saturday, November 26, 2016


My grandparents taped all sorts of unlikely things together.  I found a crystal lamp I admired was broken and "cellophane" taped together when I was clearing out their house, not to mention other broken and taped things I discovered.  I could've been disappointed by the damage, but I was glad they were resourceful, and grateful they let kids play amongst their treasures.  This tolerance, support, and example had a lot of impact on my development -- necessary towards success according to GRIT The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.

Angela's book is well researched and readable.  It also challenges a lot of what many of us think about achieving success.  Let me summarize her main point like this: what matters most is how hard someone is willing to work towards success, and people aren't willing to work that hard unless they have passion for what they're doing.

I've gotten irritated when people have said "You're so talented!"  Most people don't understand my irritation because they think that's a compliment, but I'd like my hard work to get noticed.  I've put in a crazy amount of time, money, and study into my art.  I put in all that time because I enjoyed it and got occasional praise for it, key factors towards success per Angela.

I was also musically talented, but didn't pursue that.  There was a nice girl in my chorus with much less "talent".  It would be generous to call her a "fair" singer.  I saw her many years later and discovered she's a professional singer with a voice that puts mine to shame.  She studies and practices obsessively to always get better.  Good for her and congratulations for her success.

The prevailing wisdom is if you spend 10,000 hours (10 yrs.) studying and practicing something, you'll become an expert.  You won't put that much time into something unless you're really passionate about it.  You also won't get that many hours into something if you spread your passions to multiple topics of study.

I've been giving this a lot of thought.  If you'd asked me to identify my one passion before reading this book, I would've answered "art".  Now, I wonder if that's true.  Yes, I've spent my 10,000 hrs. and more, my heart palpitates at a masterpiece, but I haven't been painting like I once did.  If I look at my efforts in the last couple years, I've spent more time studying narcissism than on art.  I'm well on my way to being a narcissist "expert" (to the stretched patience of some who hear me talk about it).

I look at the things I care about: art, writing, politics, history, psychology, education, the environment... and feel concerned Angela would say I'm too spread out for my best success.  What is the connecting thread?  After some serious soul searching, I think my personal mission statement is understanding myself and others in order to achieve better mental health and happiness -- and I'd like to share the things I've learned through the talents I've spent my 10,000 hours upon.

There are too many things in the book for me to consolidate into a 1-page blog post.  I hope you read the book.  I got a lot out of it and I hope you do too.

This is another piece I did for the Mensa Bulletin for a fictional article about wanting to break out of school.  I don't think even Grandpa could tape that wall back together.


  1. Wanting to break out of school - interesting. I like!

    "You're so lucky!" is right up there with "You're so talented!" There are somethings that are out of our control that help things fall into place, but being in a position to receive the goods often takes work. Sounds like a good book.

  2. I thought of you when I was reading this because I'd bet you've done most things right with your boys and tutees. Your sons' smiles on your hikes and rides tell a lot. Good for you and many others follow your example!

  3. Indeed, Abby and Linda. Don't leave out: 'Your gifted', which put most gifted people asleep only to wake up with a shock when a clearly not-gifted student, who has put in her or his extra hours, overtakes the gifted person.

    Linda, I like your reflections on spreading your attention. Add to that being responsible by creating an income, compromising for altruistic sake and taking care of children, elderly and pets and these 10.000 hours get diluted with natural and admirable distractions. After all, we can't live the lifes of the great Homo Universalis; living in a large estate with a serving staff of 75 people doing only what we do best and passionately. Our lives are more diluted for many reasons.

    Lovely illustration, Linda.

    1. It seems to me that interesting people have multiple interests, and far be it for me to wish them to be less than who they are! I'm just going to try not to get too distracted by the stuff that doesn't matter as much to me so I have energy for the things that do matter. Of course if someone wanted to give me a serving staff I'd have a lot more time for more things!

  4. I've discovered my true passion is writing! When I'm editing my novel time flies. And when I sit down to work on my new children's book commission, I find it a chore. Better late than never I guess.

    1. I think that says it in a nutshell Sharon. When you're doing the right things, you aren't bitching about having to do them. Wishing you the best with your writing efforts!