True Mastery is Gained Through Evolution. Not Repetition.
If you want to get better at something, simply work at it for 10,000 hours, and eventually, you’ll succeed.
That’s advice popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. The 10,000-hour idea was later debunked.
While showing up every day to do our best work even when we don’t feel like it is a crucial part of success. And so is the repetition of certain tasks.
But that’s not enough to make us succeed.
Because if all we need is repetition and consistency, then:
- People who go to gyms each week for years, even decades, should’ve become elite athletes by now, possessing elite-level strength. But that’s not the case.
- College students who spend 10,000 hours in a classroom would become experts at the subjects they learn. But we usually forget most class lectures in college.
- Workers who’ve been in their position for years (think about those pencil pushers in government or large companies) don’t necessarily become specialists in their fields.
Simply doing more work, or plain repetition of tasks, won’t cut it.
This is the case for anyone who wants to succeed. Especially if you want to create meaningful work — work that satisfies and fulfills you and brings value to people: Value that they’ll pay you good money for.
But what does this “evolution” mean exactly?
The Helsinki bus station theory
In a commencement speech to photography students, award-winning Finnish-American photographer, Arno Rafael Minkkinen talked about how repetition and consistency factor into his success.
Growing up in Finland, Minkkinen compared the process of success to the bus stations in his home country’s capital, Helsinki. Minkkinen says:
“Some two-dozen platforms are laid out in a square at the heart of the city. At the head of each platform is a sign posting the numbers of the buses that leave from that particular…