random thoughts: 10000 hours

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled out my ukulele -- the one my husband bought me a year ago (when one or two of you correctly suggested perhaps I shouldn't quit my day job).  I haven't gotten any better on it -- I just pull it out every now and then and tinker with it when I need to clear my head.  While ukes are difficult to play well, they're not difficult to play, and very little improves my mood better than picking out a tune.

When I'm looking for music to play, I usually resort to Google -- it's actually rather shocking how much uke music is out there.  And oftentimes, as I'm looking up tablature or YouTube videos with instructions on how to play certain songs, I come across some serious virtuosos on the thing. 

Like, for example, this guy:

(Seriously, you should watch that video.  It's actually only about 7 minutes long -- the remaining 3 minutes is a Rolex ad at the end -- and really, the way Jake plays that instrument is completely breathtaking.)

When I see people like that, people who are really gifted at the ukulele (or anything, really), it can be quite intimidating.  But then I remember something I read about a book I've been meaning to pick up, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell: apparently, he maintains that to obtain mastery in anything, all you need to do is practice -- specifically, 10,000 hours of practice, or 20 hours a week for 10 years.

Now, I'm not entirely sure that even 20 hours a week for 10 years would get me anywhere near Jake's level of expertise (and I also think that in addition to practice and hard work, some people are just naturally gifted), but as I pluck the strings until my fingertips are raw, I'm not sure I really want to get that good on the ukulele.  I mean, I picked the ukulele not just because it's a happy instrument, like Jake said, but also because it's a little silly: it's not an instrument most people take seriously, so you don't have to be great at it to have fun on it.  It's something that I like playing with every now and then, for my own amusement -- I harbour no fantasies about performing in front of a crowd, or even in front of anyone outside of my family. 

Contrast this with how I felt about photography when I first began:  I wanted -- and still want -- to shoot all the time. I love the idea of sharing my images, both here online, and in books.  And ultimately, I could totally see shooting 20 hours a week for 10 years.

I guess it all depends on how you want to spend 10,000 hours.  And God bless those who of you who spend yours on things different from (or even the same as) me.

You make the world a really interesting, beautiful place.


Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, and ancient 50mm manual lens.  aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/200, ISO 200

Karen Walrond12 Comments