As I wrote recently, I like to learn things. I have always had a penchant for “useless” [= rather random] information and pride myself on knowing a bit about many things. I am also interested in acquiring new skills and have been giving this possibility some thought …
For many people, acquiring a real skill means becoming an expert in something. I have always tried to avoid saying that I am an expert in anything – it just opens the possibility for someone to illustrate one’s lack of expertise or show that is has limits or is out of date.
A skill that I am currently endeavoring to acquire is playing the bass guitar. I have always wanted to play an instrument and finally started getting lessons a few months back. I have a great teacher and I am enjoying it. He is very keen to tell me that I should not aim to be an expert player. He is somewhat older than me and has been playing since he was a child. I do not need to reach that level, probably do not have the motivation and, perhaps most importantly, do not have the time. I recognize that the saying “Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good” is valid in numerous contexts and this is one of them. I just need to be “good enough”.
I have been pondering the time issue. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell talks about his “10,000 hours rule”, which claims that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. This has been disputed, but I am sure it is a good ballpark number for the amount of effort needed. I did some calculations. If I studied/practiced for 5 hours each day, 5 hours per week – i.e. 25 hours per week – which is very unlikely, it would take me 8 years to clock up the 10,000 hours. I guess that, at a pinch, I do have time. I have a birthday in a few weeks – I will be 21 for the third time. That means that I would be 71 by the time I would want to start forging a second career as a rock star. This is not going to happen.