I was talking to a friend today around lunchtime, talking about how long it takes to be proficient in music. I said, about 10 years. He was shocked. “But surely I can play music well before 10 years”, he countered. “Of course!”, I replied. “You asked about proficiency. There’s a huge difference between playing and playing very well.”
To be sure, what I consider proficiency may be a touch above what he had in mind. Having played music at a fairly advanced level, attending the Conservatory of Music in Montreal, I equate “proficiency” with world class competence. But then, I equate “proficiency” to world class competence in any arena. I’ve never seen much point in doing an average job, one that anyone can do at a moment’s notice, with minimal training.
About 10 years, I figured, is how long it would take, working at it, professionally, daily, assiduously, until your competence would rise to a level where you can start being proud of your capabilities.
The more I think about it, the more I realise about 10 years is how long it takes to change your life and go in a completely different direction. It took me about 10 years to go from employee to manager, about 10 years to go from computer programmer to IT director… Changing carreer path from IT to Marketing, then, is still a work in progress. I’ve only been at this for about 4 years.
In light of my daughter’s recent decision to stop going to school and train in a profession, I think it’s particularly pertinent to tell her this. If she can study and work in her chosen profession, and stick it out for 10 years, taking it seriously, there’s no reason she couldn’t succeed.
“Give me 10 years”, I said, “and I will change your life.” The answer came quickly: “That’s way too long”.
I think dedicating yourself to anything for 10 years these days is rare, but it carries with it a reward of competence that I was completely unable to grasp in my youth, and am only figuring it out now.
So to all those folks that have asked me my opinion on the direction they should take: my daughters, my fiancée, my friends… I can say “I don’t know what your direction should be, but you should probably stick with it for about 10 years.”
And if you’re brave enough to do that, then “Good Luck” to you, though you probably won’t need it.
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