Episode 43: Do You Think I Can Do That?

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“When I taught in a boy’s prep school, I used to talk to the boys who were trying to make up their minds as to what their careers were going to be. A boy would come to me and ask, “Do you think I can do this? Do you think I can do that? Do you think I can be a writer?” “Oh,” I would say, “I don’t know. Can you endure ten years of disappointment with nobody responding to you, or are you thinking that you are going to write a best seller the first crack? If you have the guts to stay with the thing you really want, no matter what happens, well, go ahead.” ~ Joseph Campbell fromThe Power of Myth

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Do You Think I Can Do That?

“When I taught in a boy’s prep school, I used to talk to the boys who were trying to make up their minds as to what their careers were going to be. A boy would come to me and ask, “Do you think I can do this? Do you think I can do that? Do you think I can be a writer?” “Oh,” I would say, “I don’t know. Can you endure ten years of disappointment with nobody responding to you, or are you thinking that you are going to write a best seller the first crack? If you have the guts to stay with the thing you really want, no matter what happens, well, go ahead.” ~ Joseph Campbell fromThe Power of Myth

Are you asking people around you whether or not you can chase a big dream or follow your heart? First, be careful with that. Few people will give as wise advice as Campbell. Most will tell us to be “reasonable” or fire us up with a false confidence that we can do it and see results NOW!!! (Um, not so much.)

Patience! Diligence! Persistence! Then? Well, yah. Go for it! As my Vipassana teacher, S.N. Goenka says, “Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”

How about Epictetus, the former slave and renowned Roman Stoic Philosopher: “If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

How about Malcolm Gladwell in his new book, Outliers. (Great, fun read, btw. Finished it in one 5 1/2 hour sitting recently.) He looked at the world’s greatest “outliers”--those peeps at the edge of the bell curve (really far from the norm/mean). One thing he found that separated ALL of the truly GREATs: they’d put in about 10 years or 10,000 hours of diligent work/practice before they became outliers.

Did you know the Beatles played 8 hours a day, 7 days a week at a strip club in Germany and logged in more live shows in a brief couple years than most bands EVER play? They *totally* transformed their mojo through constant practice and then landed in the US. Rock stars. But no one talks about how HARD they worked.

How about Bill Gates? Did you know when he was in high school he’d SNEAK out of bed to go to the University library where he programmed from 3-6am. His mom wondered why he was waking up so tired in the morning. The world experienced the fruits of his genius around a decade later when the computer started going mainstream.

How about violinists? Did you know one of the main reasons why someone is either a concert violinist performing solos vs. a less prominent (yet professional) violinist vs. a violin teacher vs. an amateur is how many hours they’ve committed to their practice? Yep. (Magic #? 10,000 hours of *committed*, diligent practice time for the soloist.)

Part two of this Big Idea: You’ve gotta LOVE what you do to put in that much effort. Hence, the whole “follow your bliss” thing. There’s NO way you’re gonna log in that many hours consciously striving to improve your craft doing something you hate. Not gonna happen. It’s also not gonna happen if you’re doing it simply for the external rewards. At some point, you’re gonna get burned out and walk away unless it’s what *really* sets your heart on fire.

So, what do you love doing SO much, you’d joyfully put in 10,000 hours and even PAY to be able to do it?!?

(For me, btw, it’s reading and writing and living and sharing these truths! :)

This is one of the 1,000+ Big Ideas we share in our 6-page PDF and 20-minute MP3 PhilosophersNotes on 100 of the greatest self-development books. Get 100 Notes for only 47 bucks!