Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, believes that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve Mastery in any field.
That's about 4 hours every single day for almost 7 years.
For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about what it means to master certain skills. I'm a pretty goal oriented person; I like setting tough, but achievable objectives and building a plan to get there. This has helped me immensely in my personal and professional life.
Many of you know my story....pack a day smoker for over 25 years, then I decided to quit and take up running. I went from couch potato, huffing and puffing my way around a high school track to first time marathoner in about 9 months. I ran 5 more marathons in a 3 year period, then suffered an injury and took up cycling and weight lifting. I stopped riding when we moved to Virginia last year when I gave my bike to our older son in North Carolina.
I did however stick with the weight lifting and set a goal to lift a combined 1000 lbs between squats, bench press, and deadlifts sometime this year. I finally achieved that at the end of June.
So now I don't have any big goals and I feel a little adrift. I got into Kettlebells back in February and they are pretty freaking awesome. There's no real gold standard to shoot for with Kettlebells. There's an outfit called Strongfirst ( www.strongfirst.com/
), that has a pretty tough certification involving timed Double Kettlebell Swings, Double Cleans, Double Presses, Double Front Squats, Snatches, and Turkish Get-ups. It's an instructor certification, which I really don't need (I'm pretty much a hardass when it comes to instructing....I make Stasi Guy look like the Sugar Plum Fairy. This has helped me immensely in my professional life, but only gets me in trouble at home when I try to pull that sh!t on SWMBO!)
These last few weeks, my focus has been on mastering the skill of lifting heavy things and putting them back down. The amount of weight is kind of important, but I'm most really interested in HOW I'm doing the lifts or swinging that kettlebell. I try to make sure that my form is really perfect, that I get down low in the squats, that I pause for a moment with the bar on my chest for the bench press, that I'm really conscious of using all the right muscles when pulling up a deadlift.
Same with the kettlebell. I'm way more interested in making sure that every swing is perfect, strong, & powerful, stopping only when my form goes to hell. Sometimes that's only 5-6 swings, sometimes 20 or more.
Now I will say that today, for the first time, I finally did a Turkish Get-up with a 72 lb Kettlebell! I've been struggling with this bad boy for almost a month. At first, all I could do was hold that beast over my head, my shoulders and arms shaking as I tried to keep it stable. But today, everything felt just right and I decided to go for the full monty. I warmed up with a 53 lber, then heaved that 72 lber in the air.....and up I went.
Forgetting everything I said above about keeping good form, I looked pretty much like a gawky, newborn foal trying to stay stable against this thing called gravity. But I took a quick break then tried it again. If my first attempt was ugly, my second was an abomination!
But it felt great! Afterwards I just laid on the floor gazing up at the gym ceiling, feeling the peace that angels must know when they're allowed to gaze upon the divine countenance of God!
That's when it hit me....I could be happy practicing just like this the rest of my life. I can have goals....or I can just practice.
I'm always focused on having a goal, a number to shoot for, a distance to run, a time to beat, a weight to lift. I go to the gym to workout, to work up a sweat and burn some calories, then come log the minutes onto SP.
What if I were to just....practice....practice lifting heavy things with the best form I can....practice swinging these heavy kettlebells gracefully and with maximum power. What if my goal should be to stay with that 72 lb kettlbell and just practice perfecting my TGU form, going fluidly from position to position.
It's kind of a zen thing....meditation and contemplation with action. The numbers are a good guide, but what's really important is to find that sweet spot where maximum effort is balanced with perfect form and tight mental focus.....Mastery, where movement becomes art.
We'll see. Maybe I just have too many endorphins still coursing through my system....I'll have to come back and read this blog in a few weeks or months to see if it still makes sense to me!
Have a great night Spark friends!