10, 000 hours. That’s how long it takes to build mastery. On average, when we spend 10,000 hours learning and practicing something, we become a master of it.
We do not need to have the qualifications. We do not need to have the certificate. If we want it, sure, by all means get it. But what is more needed is the constant learning and doing of something to be a master. More importantly, what we need is passion because when there is passion, we will still continue to learn and improve even after we have achieved master status. How awesome is that? Isn’t that what we all aspire our children to do? To be life-long learners?
Let me give you an example. I know a fabulous photographer who can capture the moment. He knows when to click the shutter. He knows which is the best angle to capture a shot. He can anticipate what the subject of his shoot is going to do and he snaps the photo at the exact moment. The photos he takes of athletes in motion are not blurry. Instead they always turn out showing the athletes in the best light even if they are in mid-stride: the look of determination, the purposefulness of the stride, the strain on the muscles, the glint of perspiration.
How does he do that? He has learnt it all through trial and error, through years and years of reading about photography, taking photographs, and analyzing what he did that captured beautiful photos and what he had overlooked when the photos did not turn out well. After more than 15 years learning AS A HOBBY, he started his own photography business and it took off. He has more than enough photo shoot engagements to make a more than decent living and he can command an even higher premium, if he wants to, to bring his income to an even higher level. Yet he hasn’t stopped learning. He is still working on improving his skills. He is still analyzing his own work to see what he can do better. WHY?
The reason is simple. He finds joy in capturing memories for people. To him, he can “cheat” time by capturing precious moments so that we, the beneficiaries of his photographic skills, can relive those moments again. Photography is his PASSION. It is not his job. He LOVES what he is doing.
How is this relevant to parenting?
In our society, many people are chasing qualifications. We are brought up to NEED a piece a paper to tell us we are good at whatever it is the paper says. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that education is not important. In some instances, a paper qualification is necessary. In fact, if we love what we are doing and learning while getting that qualification, fantastic! What I am saying is passion is even more important. We can spend hours and hours working towards a degree or certification. But for many people, once we get that degree, we forget 90% of what we have learnt to earn that piece of paper. And if we ask around, many graduates do not even use a fraction of the things they have learned to get the degree.
Yes, that degree may land us with a job. But what if we do not enjoy what we do? I know of an ex-neurosurgeon. He was “successful” by our definition. For one, he was a neurosurgeon. Two, he earned very good money and therefore lived a rather luxurious life. Unfortunately, he was a terribly unhappy man. He did not enjoy what he did. In fact, he did not even like medicine. He went into medical school because his dad made him, and since he got good grades, his dad made him specialise in neurosurgery. After so many years in medical school, and building his specialty, he felt trapped. He had to continue with what he did because he had financial commitments. He hated his life, and he resented his father for putting him on that path. When he was in his 50s, his father passed away. Almost immediately, this man left his practice. His family was shocked to say the least. Thankfully, they were able to understand that he needed to be able to live his life, and not the life his father had wanted him to live.
At least this ex-neurosurgeon got the courage to say, “Enough is enough!” Sadly, I know of many people who hate their jobs and their lives. But they are bound by that piece of paper (say engineering degree). They have this fear, “If I don’t become an engineer, I would have wasted all those years pursuing the degree. If I don’t become an engineer, what else can I be? How am I going to find a job? What am I going to do?” So they are resigned to what they have to do every day. Quite a few of them suffer from mid-life crisis where life seems meaningless for them, and understandably so. Some go into severe depression and stay depressed for years. In fact, depression amongst those in their 40s and 50s is on the rise. But what can these people do? Walk out of their jobs like the neurosurgeon did? Most do not have the courage to rock the boat, not when they still have children and parents who depend on them, or housing or car loans to maintain. So they feel extremely trapped and slide further deeper into helplessness.
Let us do the Math: How many hours did it take to get an engineering degree?
Assuming engineering school requires 10 hours of study each day (including working on assignments and projects) for 5 days a week. Each school year is about 35 weeks and it takes 4 years to get an engineering degree:
10 hrs x 5 days x 35 weeks x 4 = 7000 hours
If we had gone into engineering school because our parents had wanted us to, or because we were brainwashed to go and get an engineering degree because that’s where the jobs would be, we would have spent 7000 hours doing something we do not enjoy. And guess what? When we graduate, we would get a job we do not enjoy too.
Some might say, “Such is life. Suck it up.”
I disagree. Life is meant for living. We live when we are alive, not in the biological sense where we are breathing and moving. Being alive to me means living a purposeful life where everyday is meaningful, where we look forward to waking up and doing what we love.
What do we want for our children? What kind of future do we want them to have? What are we pushing them towards?
Do we want them to have a life where they wake up every moment excited and raring to go? Or do we want them to have a life where they dread waking up and have to drag their feet to a job they cannot get out of because of their financial commitment? Are we allowing them to live their lives, or are they living the lives we want them to live?
There is a saying, “If you love what you do, you never have to work another day in your life.”
What kind of life do you want for your children (and yourself)?