I’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, and it makes a point which I believe that I’ve heard elsewhere. There is a theory, that it takes an estimated ten thousand hours of input to become an expert at anything. Ten thousand hours of progress in learning, practice, crafting, immersing yourself in an endeavor to gain mastery. Working at something for about eight hours a day, five days a week, you will become an expert in about ten years, as you progress through increasingly difficult lessons. That cornerstone is the foundation upon which Outliers is built.
The case as he lays it out, and the examples which he uses; the Beatles, Bill Gates, and others, leads me to contemplate how it is that I use, or rather melancholically, waste, my time. I sit and think about an online game in which I was heavily involved, Dark Age of Camelot. I committed a sizeable amount of time over several years and I would venture to say that I am quite capable of playing at a fairly high level. My modesty holds me back from claiming that I am an ‘expert’ at this game, but there is no doubt, from the levels that I have obtained, that I am a ‘better than average’ player with a very good skill set. I am ‘Uber’ as far as the game goes. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a certain amount of pride in my accomplishments, but I notice my old guitar sitting in its case in the closet. And I think to myself that had I invested that time, and it is a question of time’s investment, in gaining the same level of expertise with the instrument. That at the end if the time period, I would have a ‘real’ or ‘tangible’ skill.
I compare to skill set for a computer game to the skill set of the guitar. I now think of the game as a waste of time, although there are some benefits from it in a macro sense. I learned a good deal of problem solving skills, but for the most part I still see it as a waste. I’m thinking about how that game, or in a larger view, video games as a whole, reward the player. The initial tasks are simple and relatively quick to accomplish, with a steady stream of quick rewards and measurable progress the user/player can see. The feedback is often visual and more important in the initial stages, immediate. The hook that draws you in. I’m wondering where the guitar’s hook would be. I recall that in learning to play, even at a basic level there was more failure that success at the early stages. That is was only after enduring the failures that success would come. I think that I remember something about our minds being risk or pain adverse. By using a quick success/reward model, are video games taking advantage of our basic psychology to sidetrack our minds, and have ius invest our more precious asset, our time, in unhealthy ways. Much like the fast food industry has hijacked the salt/sugar/fat psychology in out minds to have us invest our diets in unhealthy ways. But that’s a rant for another day.
We, as captains of our own fates, need to be ever vigilante to these engineered diversions. I look now, not at the past, but towards the future. I can not relive the past, only replay it. I look at the various endeavors to which I have applied myself. One thing that has been fairly consistent over the years has been my journaling. In have written on and off for quite a few years. I credit it that and my recently rediscover love of reading, for maintaining a good level of vocabulary. And lately I’ve been employing that vocabulary to support my new endeavor of writing. But I’m using that word ‘endeavor’ just a bit too often in this brief piece.