“People often overestimate what they can reasonably achieve in a year. But they vastly underestimate what they can achieve in 5 years.” – Steve Pavlina
Something odd happens when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Take a human being for example. I’ve been keen on saying we’re $7 worth of carbon and some other stuff, but each living person can achieve a lot more than a Brita water filter if they do anything at all.
Time is sort of like that. I’ve enjoyed writing for most of my life. It used to help me dream and since my brother is a good writer it gave me something to share with him – another way for us to be similar. I think he’s a better writer than I am, but he’s also an avid reader and he seems to understand words in a way that I don’t. He has a low emotional affect and his prefrontal cortex seems loaded with glucose such that logic seems to be his baseline state.
But Des is one of those mentors who just says do it, fake it till you make it and swing a lot, you’ll eventually get good enough to hit something.
So I started writing publicly more than 5 years ago and now, a half decade later, I’m still writing. This makes me a writer. I’m not as good as I would like to be so my 10000 hours are no where near up, but I’m still plugging away at it.
About a month after I started writing I met Rachel and she directed me towards Larry at SST to get a job. I was hired as a manager but watching how his team of coaches interacted and facilitated change within athletes really excited me. I told Rachel that I thought the coaches were amazing and she said that I could be one of them if I worked at it and she also reminded me that I was in one of the best learning environments in Canada to gain the skills needed. So I asked a lot of questions and Larry didn’t answer many of them, he pushed them back to me to give him the answers and when I did, he’d coach me on the finer points so I was able to apply the principles of science and physiology to get predictable outcomes. One day I noticed that I was a personal trainer and strength coach.
For most of my life I have wanted to look a particular way physically – my upper chest was always kind of small and my shoulders never really looked wide enough for me. My legs were functional but not really well muscled. The skills gained at SST allowed me to create programs to address these perceived short comings. The upper chest and shoulders grow when your legs grow. And the legs will only grow when you train the hell out of them. Squatting, dead-lifting and posterior chain work caused the hormonal release that promotes growth and eating massive amounts of good quality food provides the building blocks needed to make a battle ready body. After years of training like this, I’m still very lean, with a layer of muscle all over that looks more appealing.
In an around the time I met Rachel I decided to become a Group cycling instructor. We took the training together because we were the only two people from our club who were going to do it. She was already a great instructor – strong stage presence, very friendly and happy and intensely strong. She intimated the hell out of me and after the first day of training I considered quitting. When I told her this on the drive in on Sunday she just laughed and said “you have no idea how inspiring it is to see someone work as hard as you do to try and learn something. You HAVE to do this Pat, not just for you, but for the members who don’t think they can do it either.” I just accepted what she said and when I thought about all the puking on the drive home after the first day and all through that evening I handed off responsibility to her and went for it. Five years later, I know I don’t teach like they do in the master video’s but I teach a class that is different but equally effective. I’ve mentored a few instructors and when I see them develop I tell them “I wish I could teach like you.” They laugh at me and say “you don’t need to Pat, you teach like YOU.”
Now all of this is to say that 5 years ago I made some choices to try some new things and if I had stopped any of them after 1 year, I wouldn’t have been all that good at them. But I kept doing them for another 4 years and the improvements were anything BUT linear. You grind it out for months feeling like nothing is happening and suddenly you find yourself lost in the moment wondering how you end up being good at it. It seems easy looking back, but looking forward it seemed impossible.
Half a decade seems like a long time, one year doesn’t. But we get it wrong when we think about how good we’ll be in 1 year and we get it wrong when we think about how good we’ll be after five years of sustained effort. If you start it today, by March 2013 you won’t feel embarrassed by your level of proficiency and by March 2017, if you stick with it, you’ll wonder if you were ever NOT able to do it.