Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Today’s luncheon topic was about cultivating expertise. The take away, for me, from the session was that you don’t have to have innate talent to succeed as much as you do dedication to stick the time and energy into becoming world class at whatever it is you’ve chosen to do. Statistics were provided showing that it takes roughly 4 years of full-time personal investment to become an expert in any given field without regard for pre-existing talent. Other topics touched upon included: the idea of quitting too soon (not investing the time to develop the skills necessary to succeed), not getting appropriate feedback from someone qualified to provide it, and not cutting loose when you need to walk away (although there wasn’t a lot of discussion around what criteria would be used to determine when it IS time to cut loose.)

One idea I brought to the table of discussion today was the idea of intrinsic motivation. Like many people in our lunch group, I am used to achieving my goals. I tend to “like” whatever I’ve become good at, up to a point. However, the road to get to that place where I’m good has rarely been enjoyable. In that, I think I’ve been approaching things with the wrong perspective. I think instead, I should have been following what I enjoyed, until it wasn’t fun any longer, like Curtis has been doing. By vectoring, you learn about yourself, what you enjoy, who you enjoy it with, and what aspects of activities are the most rewarding to you on a personal level. There is something to be said about knowing thyself.

One of the great points touched upon today is that we are not static beings and as we grow we may often outgrow a passion or focus and need to look for greener pastures. On a similar note we discussed how an intended goal might not bring the rewards originally expected and anticipated.Many of us have reached where we set out to be only to find the place where we’ve arrived is not as fulfilling as we’d imagined (not from a traditional success perspective necessarily but from a personal satisfaction and happiness viewpoint). Even after we realize this though, we may feel we’ve invested too much to just walk away, even if it will make us happier. We get “tied in.” In my experience, I have usually spent too much time focusing on the goal line to really pay attention to things that I now see as key factors on what I need to determine when to cut loose.Unlike others today, who said they think they may have abandoned their efforts too soon in some situations, I have been the person that sees things through at all costs. Cutting loose has been something I’ve had difficulty doing because I thought it meant I failed somehow.

In this new world I’ve discovered where passion is king, I no longer have that problem. My first question will always be: Is this enjoyable? Even the work at getting good at something I’m not yet good at has to have an aspect of fun, or it isn’t likely where I want to be investing my time, at least not in terms of following my passion. If I focus my time on something and it’s a grind, it is unlikely I will ever find that work to be truly fulfilling and “fun”.No, not everything is joy joy, cotton candy, and bubble gum. Anything you want to accomplish involves a lot of time and effort to get good at it…apparently 4 full years worth. But if the work really feels like work, and isn’t personally enjoyable and fulfilling, I will seriously reconsider if that is something I want to invest in and I won’t feel bad about walking away from something that isn’t working for me. Sure, sticking with it will get me to the goal I’ve set and I’ll be good at it and reap the rewards it holds. But I don’t want to end up someplace that isn’t fun or fulfilling simply to reach a goal. I think I would likely have abandoned (cut loose) from many a particular venture had I been evaluating my progress based on how much enjoyment and satisfaction I was getting in the present moment. Conversely, I definitely would not have cut loose from other focuses (passions) that I abandoned at an early age, had I evaluated their worth and my investment in them based on how they made me feel. Somewhere along the road, I turned off my feelings meter and started evaluating my activities based on a different measuring stick, right or wrong. I’ve learned how to get where I set out to go, now I just have to make a point of making sure it’s a destination, or more accurately a journey, that keeps me happy.

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