McKella Kinch
April 12, 2023

Take a Breath…You’re Not Behind. Here’s Why

Take a Breath…You’re Not Behind. Here’s Why

We’ve all heard about the “10,000-Hour Rule” that claims that in order to become a master at something, you need to log at least 10,000 hours of focused practice in that area. 

But who has that kind of time? And who the heck figures out what they want to master early enough that they CAN log 10,000 hours before their 80th birthday? 

We’ve also heard the expression “jack of all trades, master of none,” like it’s a bad thing. 

For a lot of us, this is just downright discouraging. What if you didn’t find your “thing” when you were young so you could clock your 10,000 hours early on? What if you’re more of a dabbler and you haven’t found your “thing”? Have you fallen behind in life?

Good news: Despite conventional wisdom, you might have actually set yourself up for more success than you thought!

In his TED Talk, “How Falling Behind Can Get You Ahead,” David Epstein highlights the importance of embracing a slower path to success and argues that those of us who experience setbacks or failures can benefit from the learning opportunities these situations present.

Watch it here! 

Main takeaways: 

  • Early success is not always an indicator of long-term success. It's more important to keep learning and growing than to achieve immediate success.
  • Explore a variety of interests and experiences to develop a broader range of skills and knowledge. This can help you get to know yourself, which is one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself to succeed in the long run, even if it feels slower in the moment. (Your 3 Circles Journey can help you here! If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, get in touch with a culture team member or check out our book.)
  • Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure is not a reflection of your worth or ability. It's a chance to figure out what didn't work and how to improve for next time.
  • Enjoy the process of learning and growing, and don't get too focused on the end result. Success may come in unexpected ways, and it's important to stay open-minded and adaptable.

Rethinking Mastery and Success

Dabblers, rejoice! There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, your approach to life might set you up for more success than if you’d picked one main pursuit early on and stuck with it. 

What a relief, right? 

No more feeling bad about that “detour” as a modern dance major, that summer internship that went nowhere, quitting tuba lessons, or that month you spent learning everything you could about quasars. It all counts. It’s all useful. It helped you learn more about yourself and your 3 Circles, and it all shapes who you are today.

It’s okay if you don’t know what your “thing” is. 

Epstein shows us a chart mapping out the typical trajectory of elite athletes. It’s actually the ones who have a “sampling period” where they try out lots of different sports and activities before specializing, who go on to become elite, while those who specialize early tend to fizzle out before reaching elite status.

This pattern seems to hold true across disciplines, especially in areas where rules are constantly changing, and practicing the same thing over and over again won’t necessarily get you ahead. 

In fields where you have to be nimble, update your thinking, and forge new paths, the dabblers have the advantage because they have a wider range of skills and knowledge to draw upon.

“I think if we thought about career choices like dating, we might not pressure people to settle down so quickly.” -David Epstein

It’s also useful to note that this is normal. Most people work this way, trying on new hats and new things while only a few specialize early.

This approach may not be as glamorous as pursuing a single goal with laser-like focus, but it can ultimately lead to greater success and fulfillment.

If you’re a dabbler (and most of us are), here’s how you can make the most of your varied experience and create your own version of success. 

Embrace a Growth Mindset

This means viewing challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as obstacles to success. To develop a growth mindset, focus on learning and improvement rather than perfection, and practice reframing negative thoughts as positive ones. 

If you’re nervous about trying something new, try reframing those nerves as excitement (because they feel really similar!). If you’re intimidated by a new project at work, break it into smaller pieces and get excited about how you’re going to learn and develop as you work through this challenge.

Pursue a Variety of Interests

Don’t squash your urge to explore!

It’s great to play with a variety of interests and experiences to develop a broader range of skills and knowledge. Try taking on new hobbies, volunteering for tasks at work, or pursuing a variety of courses or degrees.

If you’ve wanted to take on that project, go back to school, or even watch some Youtube videos on making the perfect sous vide chicken breast, there’s no time like the present.

It can also help to tell yourself you’re exploring your 3 Circles or your thing, not finding it. It’s an ongoing journey, and you never truly arrive!

Celebrate Your Victories

Make a habit of looking back on your day, week, month, or year and asking yourself “What is there to celebrate?” There will ALWAYS be something. (Our core value of Reflection can really help here!)

If you didn’t pass out from nerves during your big work presentation, celebrate. If you finish a project a day earlier than you planned, celebrate. If you managed to squeeze in a workout before your commute, celebrate. 

Getting excited about those small victories will keep your energy high and your mind open to lessons and opportunities!

Bring in 3 circles. It’s not just about picking something and getting 10000, but getting to know yourself 

Maybe reflection

Rethink Failure 

Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow (even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment). To embrace failure, practice reframing it as a positive experience. Ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?" or "How can I use this setback to improve?" Remember: failure is not a reflection of your worth or ability. It just means that one thing didn’t work out as you hoped.

And if you can laugh at yourself a little, even better!

Focus on the Journey 

Finally, remember that success is a journey, not a destination. Even more importantly, that journey is not linear, no matter how much we want it to be. Setbacks and side trails are lessons and experiences. They’re part of your journey, not detractors from it.

Enjoy the process of learning and growing, and embrace the ups and downs along the way. Keep an open mind, and be willing to pivot and change direction as needed. 

Success often shows up in unexpected ways, and with your broad experience, you’ll be well-prepared for opportunities when they come knocking!