Do you cheat your way to success?
Posted at Jul 23 2016 07:15 AM
As a training manager, I administer a self-help program that engages my learners for twelve weeks of intense study and immersion in education, jobs search or business. It is a learn-and-do set up where keeping commitments and developing habits are the core principles of success.
I have seen that many students struggle and falter during the first weeks because they were being ushered to a whole new spectrum of activities they were not accustomed to before.
For example, each student is encouraged to save money on a daily basis for the next 90 days. Some fell out of the program, leaving others to persevere until they reached the finish line. Others returned and asked if there was a way to shorten the course.
In other words, they were looking for a shortcut.
I have been associated with mountain climbers who risk it all to climb the higher summit as their next goal. They follow trails and when there is none, they pave new ones. Their satisfaction and bliss are not met when they reach a certain altitude. They go for the peak. It has got to be the peak.
Recently, my husband and I were reunited with an old friend named Dei Jardiniano. He is a very talented person. He paints, sculpts, sings, plays a variety of musical instruments, and climbs mountains.
One Saturday, he invited us to see his property in Batangas which he and my husband could use for a new business venture. We were dressed in our usual smart casual while Dei was clad like he would climb a mountain that day. True enough, an hour later, we discovered that we were to set foot on Mount Batulao: a novice’s initiation mountain.
From the highway, we were to cross a kilometer of a narrow road edging on cliffs on both sides. I started to think of the possibilities that we could fall and die there and no one would ever know it. I held fast to my seatbelt and prayed all the way to what seemed like eternity. My children were oblivious to the situation so they kind of enjoyed the trip. I kept my fears to myself but when we alighted from the truck, I asked Dei if there was a shortcut.
Guess what? There was no shortcut. Dei and my husband hiked for an hour to get to the place while we amused ourselves with the things they sold at the souvenir shop. When they descended the mountain, it started to rain. You know what that meant: the way back would be slippery and dangerous. Imagine the horror on my face when we started to head back. But after a few minutes, I saw the highway once again and I was never happier in my life. I realized it was not that far but because I had those fears going the first time, the way seemed endless.
Meanwhile, Erlwin and Dei were ecstatic. They achieved their purpose and only they could fully appreciate the reward for enduring the hike up the mountain.
This is true with our personal lives. When confronted with challenges, we have the tendency to look for a shortcut.
10,000 HOURS TO SUCCESS
Have you heard about the 10,000-hour rule? In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell said it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. How did he arrive at this conclusion? Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success.
In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”
All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.
Evidently, the elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers. One might suspect that the naturally-gifted in music would emerge in this study. If natural talent had played a role, we would expect some of the “naturals” to float to the top of the elite level with fewer practice hours than everyone else. But the data showed otherwise. The psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement.
WHO ARE THESE ELITES?
The elites don’t just work harder than everybody else. At some point, the elites fall in love with practice to the point where they want to do little else.
The elite writer does not wait for inspiration before he writes. He writes for the mere love of it. Out of burning passion.
The elite basketball player attends practices with his teammates and finds more time to shoot basket alone.
The elite student is not confined within the four walls of his classroom. The world is his school.
The elites continue to work even in their slumber! Because the elites love what they do, at some point in their career, it no longer feels like work.
How can we be like the elites using Gladwell’s research?
First approach: Choose a field and practice for 10,000 hours. Spending 40 hours per week over five years would give you 10,000 hours.
The reverse approach: Where have you already logged 10,000 hours of practice? What is it that you do extremely well that makes people ask, “How did you do it?”
We get better at things when we are consistently doing it. But we must start somewhere. We just don’t get lucky. Luck finds those who are prepared for an opportunity being benefited the most.
YES, THERE IS A SHORTCUT TO SUCCESS
You already know how Microsoft was founded. Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped out of college to form the company in 1975. It’s that simple: Drop out of college, start a company, and become a billionaire, right? Wrong.
Further study reveals that Gates and Allen had thousands of hours of programming practice prior to founding Microsoft. First, the two co-founders met at Lakeside, an elite private school in the Seattle area. The school raised three thousand dollars to purchase a computer terminal for the school’s computer club in 1968. As a teenager, Gates fed his programming addiction by sneaking out of his parents’ home after bedtime to use the university’s computer. Gates and Allen acquired their 10,000 hours through this ingenious strategy.
When the time came to launch Microsoft in 1975, the two were ripe for success.
In 1960, while they were still an unknown high school rock band, the Beatles went to Hamburg, Germany to play in the local clubs.
Were they an instant hit? No! They were actually underpaid. But what did they get out Hamburg experience? Hours of playing time. Non-stop hours of playing time that forced them to get better.
As the Beatles grew in skill, audiences demanded more performances and more playing time. By 1962, they were playing eight hours per night, seven nights per week. By 1964, the year they burst on the international scene, the Beatles had played over 1,200 concerts together. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, J.K. Rowling, Britain's 13th wealthiest woman-- even wealthier than Queen Elizabeth II -- amassed fame and fortune for the Harry Potter fantasy series, one of the most popular book and film franchises in history.
When she started writing its first installment, Rowling did not have the luxury of time to fully engage as she was a divorced wife; being extremely poor and raising a daughter while relying on the state benefits. But she wrote and wrote and wrote.
The shortcut to success as evident in the above examples is not achieved by cutting-corners, but by seeing around corners. A shortcut to success is not found by skipping steps, but by stepping out in a different way. It does not come from accepting the way things are--that is someone else’s success--but by imagining and striving to find the way things should be.
Only by finding a better way to do what needs to be done or endeavoring to find a way to do what others say can’t be done can a real shortcut to success be discovered.
In short, finding a shortcut to success does not come from repeating the past, but from reminiscing about the future.
In 2011, my husband and I were back in Cebu. Erlwin was ready to deliver his books to the different branches of National Bookstore in Manila. Because we did not have any publisher that time, we were left to print our own copies of Almost is the Same as Never books and to market it as well.
One day, he left home with four suitcases full of his books.
When he came back after two days, I was all ears to his story. He recounted how he managed to hop from one store to another; got on and off the escalators and elevators of the mall; hailed taxis to load his stuff; and got lost several times before he could locate some of the stores. He was exhausted but he did not quit.
After publishing his first book, he fell in love with writing and now he is devoting more hours writing than he used to.
As I was typing this article in my office, I turned my chair and saw the poster of Steve Jobs mounted on the wall with his wise counsel. It reads: The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you have not found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
Whatever it is that makes you excited to wake up in the morning and breaks your back at night--because you know in your heart that you found your passion--nurture it. Nurture that talent or skill or gift. Do more than the average. Know that you must be bad first before you can be good. Always compete with yourself. Push your boundaries.
I see this poster of Steve Jobs every day in my office and smile but mostly I see myself in the mirror and smile because I knew exactly what he meant.