Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's REALLY Hard to be Excellent at More Than One Thing

I've come to the conclusion that is REALLY hard to be excellent at more than one thing. Here's why.

Since we don't have a TV, I haven't been watching the Olympics, but I have been getting regular news updates. These updates often include who wins the gold medals, especially those who win multiple medals.

For example, today I read about American Ted Ligety who won the Alpine skiing giant slalom gold medal. From what I understand, he's pretty good at skiing. He's so good in fact that beside Ted Ligety, the only other American to win two Olympic golds in Alpine skiing was Andrea Mead Lawrence, who took both the women's slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Games.

That's just crazy, right? There are only TWO Americans to win multiple golds in Alpine skiing. And this is just one example of a bunch of updates I've gotten. I'm catching a big lesson here:

It's REALLY hard to be excellent at more than one thing.

That should ring true if you read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. If it takes 10,000 hours to become great at something, you inherently have to NOT spend your time doing other things. If you never focus, then you never reach your 10,000 hours.

Want proof? Just look at these athletes: It's rare to win gold at more than one event. The reason is because they picked one and focused on it. If they practiced multiple events, they probably wouldn't even be at the Olympics.

I'll be honest, this is a tough conclusion for me to come to. I want to be excellent... and multiple things... and I find myself getting frustrated that I'm only good at a bunch of things. I suppose that means I need to make a choice: either focus on one thing and become excellent, or come to terms with being good a a bunch of things. I've made a choice by default, but I'd like it to be more intentional.

I guess it all depends on what I want in life. I've noticed that most renown people... people who change the world (or win Olympics)... were singularly focused. Do I want to change the world? Does changing my local community require the same type of focus? What about just being excellent at my job? My intuition says yes, but my heart wants more...

Clearly I'm still wrestling with this reality.


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