Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these.
James Whitcomb Riley

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Calvin Coolidge

Let’s take a look at the next set of items from the video a couple weeks ago on the list of 8 things you need for success…

  • Focus on one thing
  • Push yourself
  • Work hard
  • Persist
  • Be good at what you do

So it’s my personal opinion that these are all basically the same thing. If you focus on one thing, push youself, work hard, and persist, you’ll be good at what you do. The first 4 are the steps to the 5th item on the list! As mentioned before, Excellence is simply a matter of doing something. With the physiological limits aside (i.e;  a 98 pound twig of a man will never be a linebacker) simply committing yourself to one course of action and diligently working through the repetition, the failure, the boredom, the frustrations…. THAT will make you excellent. You put your 10,000 hours in of dedicated, diligent, hard work, you’ll be one of the best in the world. There’s no evidence to the contrary. (For a complete study on talent vs determination- check out Talent is Overrated.)

Seems easy enough, twenty hours a week for 10 years and I can do anything… But here’s the fly in the ointment- few of us are that determined and focused. We waste time on videogames, movies, concerts, TV, watching sports, reading books, etc… We get distracted. We’re so busy looking for our fun little distractions today that we never excel at anything, except distracting ourselves from any real focus.

I’ll be really transparent here. I know this is my problem. I did spend the first 10-12 years of my teaching career immensely focused and probably did spend 20 hours a week learning and teaching technology, and as a result, I am an expert, excellent at what I do, gaining much recognition in my field. I’m one of the best at what I do.  But lately, I’ve been distracted. See- my real passion is learning and thinking… not necessarily design. And I can be distracted in the SUBJECT I’m studying so I don’t just focus on one thing. I read some theology, then some photography, then psychology, then something on parenting, then a book on the history of modern technology… I don’t have a focus. But one thing I AM excellent at is reading a book, then taking the concepts and ideas in the book and implementing them in my own life and connecting them to other areas of life.

I excel at taking information in and thinking about it, connecting it to other areas of interest, and sharing it in a way that’s accessible. I learn and teach. That’s the only thing I do with deep dedication. I want to go back to school for a masters and possibly a doctorate, but can’t decide on Education, Art, Photography, Theology, Philosophy, or Psychology.  How’s that for a pinch? I’ve become a recognized leader in my field, and I consider the possibility of changing to a completely different field.

JOURNAL: What about you? Are you too distracted by everything to be good at anything? What do you focus on for at least 2-3 hours a day every day? What would you like to focus on? What’s holding you back? Title your journal “gettting awesome.”

Update 11/8- Thinking out loud yesterday and getting so transparent has me feeling a little exposed… Seriously thought about deleting that whole thing about how I struggle with what my purpose and goals should be for the next stage of my life, but I want you guys to know it’s normal. And it’s also normal to have reservations about putting 10,000 hours into something when you’re not sure it’s what you want. What if you get awesome at something you don’t love?? That’s a slight fear that I have as well.

But one thing I have learned is that if you can get to a point of excellence in one thing, then you KNOW you can do it again for something else. And even more importantly… if you choose NOT to put the time and energy into one thing and become excellent at it, then the bottom line is that you won’t be good at anything, and you’ll suck at a whole lot of things. That limits your options seriously. I can choose freely what my next step will be in life because I have a good, successful career that I can either stay in or move beyond. I have choices now because I made focused and dedicated choices earlier. I don’t have to work crappy low-wage jobs that take all the time I will need for more school, and I have the money to pay for school.

The bottom line is that focusing on something that I do still love and becoming excellent at it, lets me be open to exploring something else that I may love even more. My core value is curiosity and understanding… I know I can do that in any career. The only reason I think about moving past this career is NOT at all because this one is too hard or not rewarding enough… In fact, it’s that I’m looking forward to a completely new and significantly more difficult challenge.

I want to simply encourage you all to also feel the love for life, and the passion for challenge and growth that will make you feel the most fulfilled and gives you the most joie de vivre.

And just to quell any rumors, I have no plans on leaving teaching at all right now. Even if I chose to leave the classroom, it would be 5-10 years off… I need time to become excellent at something else before I move into it!