Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Show up and do the work

Want to be a great guitar player? Get a guitar and play. Want to be a world-class writer? Write. Want to be a legendary filmmaker? Start making films.

No, you won't be great on the first day. But every great artist once knew as little as you do now – and maybe less. What made them great is they showed up and did the work until they got better at it.

Ray Bradbury tells the story of deciding he would write a short story every week, 52 weeks a year. And he did. They were not very good at first, and then they started to get better. He sold a handful of them the first year, maybe six the second year. And during the third year, he wrote "The Lake" and finally knew what it felt like to write a great short story.

Do the math. He wrote more than 100 short stories before he finally wrote a great one.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000-hour effect. He argues with some credibility that the people who are great at their fields have put at least 10,000 hours into doing the work. The Beatles, for example, played in Hamburg for eight hours a night, interacting with the crowds and learning what moves an audience. After about 10,000 hours they became overnight sensations and the greatest rock band ever.

Woody Allen famously said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." But to paraphrase Mr. Pareto, the other 20 percent is the most important part. Most of us can show up every day. It's the ones who show up and do the work of getting better who eventually turn into the great ones.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Good commentary!