Follow three rules and become an expert on any skill you love.
I had a discussion with my counselor about the whole talent thing. How I had decided to spent much more time on drawing (and less time on other things) because I think that will give me a change to become an expert.
She didn’t agree. She thinks that talent does matter. She played a musical instrument in her teens. Although she practiced for years she never got very good.
Thinking about that I realized that she had a point.
My mother bought her piano in 1968 when we moved to Waddinxveen. When she died in 1989 she had been practicing for more then 20 years, strictly one hour a day.
But she never got any better then mediocre.
So how is this possible?
Why is it that some people practice for 10,000 hours and become world class artists and others practice for well over 10,000 hours and never get to be more the mediocre.
Is it talent?
I hope not.
Because if it’s talent I’m screwed. The last one and a half year have shown that I have no drawing talent what so ever.
A few years ago I bought a harmonica. It seemed like a fun instrument to play. It also seemed a fairly easy instrument to master even for someone with no musical talent.
But it turned out to be a very difficult instrument.
I had bought a few books on musical theory but none of them made any sense to me. And how ever hard I tried I never was able to blow a single note.
After a few months I gave up and threw everything out.
A few months ago my interest was rekindled by one of the videos Youtube recommended. I researched harmonicas on the Net and found a wealth of information on the kind of instrument you should start with and a lot of free music and some instructional videos on Youtube.
A nice read but I did nothing with it and wouldn’t have done anything if it wasn’t for the fact that I broke my hip and can’t leave my house for the next three months.
Getting rather bored I ordered a harmonica via the Internet and started practicing.
This time I found that the level of skill you can reach not only depends on your talent. It’s also depended on the kind of information you can get.
Thanks to the instructional videos I found I figured out how to blow a single note. And although I can only blow single notes for about 10 minutes it’s clear that I’ll get better with more practice.
But that’s the harmonica. An instrument that is played by hardly anyone in the Netherlands. And since hardly anyone plays it you can’t get much information on the instrument. But there are loads of people who draw. There are loads of good books on the subject and I have been researching the web since I started.
So does my lack of progress with drawing mean that I don’t have what it takes or is there something else I should take into consideration.
If I’d ask this question a week ago I would have answered that I suffer from a lack of talent. But this week I started with something I’ve never done before. I started with copying the work of other artists.
In doing so I figured something out.
Until now I’ve always tried to draw the pictures in my mind. Since that is the purpose of of this blog I never thought anything of it. Actually the only reason why I started with copying was because I ran out of subjects to draw but still wanted to draw something. Anything.
But in doing so I found that I had to push my self to get better results.
When I draw a picture from memory I’m the only one who know how the original picture looks. And since to me photographs, painting and drawing always look different from each other I’m easily satisfied.
But now everybody is going to get to see both the original painting and my copy of it.
I can no longer put up with the fact that there are hues missing in my drawing box. I can’t get away with adapting the drawing to my drawing box. I have to mix new colors to adapt my drawing box to the picture.
So in doing this drawing I’m learning more then I’ve learned in the last one and a half year.
I think that’s also the reason why my mother never got any better. Yes she did practice for 20,000 hours, but most of that time was spent repeating tunes she already knew by heart. She hardly ever tried new tunes.
By contrast. I’m finding that when I stretch myself and try something new I also get to practice the old skills.
If you want to be an expert at a skill you’ll need three things.
- You need the right kind of information.
If you don’t understand what you’re supposed to do, find an other book, website or teacher.
- You need to practice 7 to 14 hours a week. Which means that you really need to love this. Otherwise you can get good but you’ll never be an expert.
- You need to stretch yourself. Spent the majority of your time practicing new things.
It is important to practice the skills you already know. But to become an expert you’ll have to try and learn everything there is.