One of the ideas that I’ve been kicking around recently is whether it’s better to invest time in developing areas of weakness or to put those same hours into enhancing strengths.
I’m increasingly of the opinion that most people can learn to do most things if they are willing to commit the time and energy. Granted, some people may have more of an aptitude for one thing over another (languages aren’t it for me!) and so may not have to work as hard or as long to achieve a basic level of proficiency as someone who doesn’t have the same aptitude.
To get beyond that initial level of proficiency, to achieve mastery, requires a more significant investment of time and energy.
Mastery = time + commitment
It’s been said that mastery of a skill requires approximately 10,000 hours. This is the equivalent of about 5 years working 40 hour weeks. It sounds about right to me. It’s about the length of a traditional apprenticeship or the number of hours that you would be expected to put in during a typical PhD, or MD training program.
So where to invest your 10,000 hours? In some regards as an ‘amateur’ photographer I’m in a luxurious position in that I can spend time working on what appeals to me rather than developing a skill set that is going to meet the needs of ‘the client’. In turn this means that I have developed a very lop-sided skill set, as I have focused on the things that appeal to me. That’s not to say that I’ve been successful with all the subjects that appeal to me. In fact one of the things that has helped, and continues to help, push me forward are portfolio review sessions with people that want to see me improve and will give me solid frank feedback. These review sessions have helped me steer away from those subjects that regardless of how hard I try I end up making ‘record shots’, to allow me to focus on those subjects that truly resonate. It’s taking some time and effort but I’m finding my focus.