This piece is a part of the series 30 Words In 30 Days. Read previous parts of the series here: WORD | HOLY | RELEVANT | WONDER | WINDOWS | TOWER | BENCH | CATHEDRAL | PUB | OCEAN | MOTHER | AGE | DEVOTIONAL
This piece is a guest post written by a good friend of mine, Marshall Sandoval. Marshall writes about video games, faith, and culture over at MarshallSandoval.com
There’s a very popular idea from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers known as the 10,000 Hour Rule. The rule states that the key to success in any field is to put in 10,000 hours of work. It’s probably a fair assessment of the time it takes to truly master a craft. Even though our culture loves to toss the 10,000 Hour Rule around, we aren’t really wired to embrace that kind of grind or discipline.
Jesus used a lot of agrarian parables. I love these corporeal stories. At (Jay’s old stomping grounds) Awakening Church we’re studying the agrarian parables of Mark’s gospel in a series called Grow. These stories were embedded in a paradigm of thinking in terms of weeks and seasons; it was what author Richard Florida calls the age of agriculture. Later, Marx would claim that capitalism alienates us from our work and the products of our work in what Florida termed the age of industrial capitalism. Today, Florida would say we’re transitioning out of the organizational age; he titled his treatise The Rise of the Creative Class. To be a “content creator” today you don’t need special skills. Anyone with a WordPress account can write. Smartphones and a few apps with good filters can make anyone seem like Ansel Adams. There are some great aspects of these paradigm shifts. More people can get their 10,000 hours when the tools of the trade are so democratized. I just fear we’ve lost something in the process. We don’t have to wait for film to develop anymore. We don’t have to wait for seeds to grow into meals. I fear we’re always looking for instant gratification.
I think a lot about the scene in a sports movie or romantic comedy when the main character has a dramatic epiphany. Finally their resolve is steeled and they will get that girl or they’ll win that fight. The same thing always comes next…a montage. 10,000 hours are always reduced to jump cuts and a catchy pop song. We’re fixated on two points in a very long timeline: the epiphany and the payoff. But the hard part, the important work, happens in the lengthy gap between these two points.
I recently shifted career paths in just such an epiphanous series of moments. I’d love parts of teaching, but I want to write, I decided. Thus far, I’m still making peanuts as a freelancer, but I may yet land a job in the field of my dreams. My point is that the decision was full of risks, and people lauded the grandiose gesture. Whenever you make a dramatic and risky decision like that, people think that’s the brave moment of importance. That’s not the important moment. After every big fork in the road and before every grand victory or ugly crash are hours and hours of meat and potatoes dedication. The important moment is practicing your ball handling skills for hours and hours in the dead of summer. No one applauds you when you draw a practice doodle every single day, even the days you’d rather stab the pencil in your eye. The catalyst for change is taking the time to meditate when you’d rather check-out. What’s really important are humdrum everyday moments of mundane discipline. The important moments are all of the unsexy hours between the risky decision and the reward.