This is an image from Stockholm, Sweden on September 3, 1967. That was the day when Sweden changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right side.
Naturally, there was chaos.
A few posts back, I wrote about change, and why it sucks. No matter how necessary or beneficial a change may be, it is natural human tendency to resist it. We hate the transition associated with change. Going from a current status quo to a new status quo is always accompanied by Chaos and then persistence to implement it. Chaos scares us – partly because it is uncomfortable; partly because we think of Chaos as the actual change and run back to the safety of our old status quo.
Outliers is a classic book on what makes up success by Malcolm Gladwell. He argues that highly successful people – the outliers – do not succeed just by simply working harder. Being there at the right place at the right time, among other factors, is critical too.
Gladwell describes the “Rule of 10,000” which says that it takes about 10,000 hours of practicing a task for someone to achieve mastery in it. It can be music, computer programming, writing, sports – anything (and certainly for knowledge work!).
“… ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.” — “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell
Doing the maths, practicing for 40-hours in a week and 180 hours in a month, it takes about 5 years to achieve mastery in it. Obviously, what it means to be a master and what the world of mastery is can vary, but in general the rule models the effort required to become really good at something. Gladwell gives examples of The Beatles, Bill Gates and Paul Allen to prove the theory. All of them put in 10,000 of practicing music or programming before they really became masters at it.
Stop reading this post and open up your calendar. Take a look at what it had for the last three weeks and what it holds for the next three.
Well, probably it looks booked and you very busy (which is true!).
However, what you probably did not notice was that your calendar is filled with meetings and commitments that are either:
1. Added by others through an invitation
2. Added by you by invitation to others
In essence, your calendar is most likely a journal of your commitments with others. It is a document which you refer to, to find out whom you have to meet or talk to next. It chronicles how and where your time is owned by others.
So, what’s wrong?
This is a Guest Post from my dear friend and ex-colleague, Majd, from whom I have learnt and shared a great deal over past 10 years. An excellent manager of knowledge workers and one of the best software testing minds you can find. He maintains a blog at http://knowledgetester.org/.
It is a lesson from a barber shop approximately twelve years ago but it still sticks to my mind. I was spending my days in those years at a bachelor flats accommodation in Lahore (those flats are Pakistani equivalent of an US condo), and there were many shops around those flats. One of the barbers was my point for the haircut and beard trimming. The master of the shop had a worker boy and the two of them seemed to have good coordination but on one of my regular visits, I found out that the master had fired that worker. I asked him what was the reason as that boy seemed to be a good help for you and now you are all alone to do your work. The barber replied: “his work was not attractive” (in Urdu/Hindi: uss kay kaam main kashish naheen thee). From that day since today, I want to do work that is attractive and I go to barbers who have attraction in their work.
Change is hard. It’s difficult. It sucks!
Well, it’s not really that hard. It’s hard because of how we deal with the change.
We hate change. We detest it. We resist it. We procrastinate. We put it off. We do whatever we can to avoid it. We make a herculean effort to avoid the potentially small effort required to make the change.
That is how we are hardwired. If our current state has some sort of equilibrium, a sense of sanity and acceptance of where we are, we would resist change. Even a change that is for better.
It is not because we do not like to make things better. We all like to be richer, happier and more satisfied.
It’s the process of change that we hate.
The more I learn about child development, the more fascinated I get at the similarity of the fundamentals between adult professional growth and child development.
Consider the following advice from Baby Center on helping your child develop fast:
It’s important not to frustrate your child with toys and activities that are way beyond his abilities, but a little struggling goes a long way toward learning new skills.
When an activity doesn’t come easily to your baby, he has to figure out a new way to accomplish the task. That type of problem solving is the stuff better brains are made of. If he’s attempting to open a box, for example, resist the urge to do it for him. Let him try first. If he continues to struggle, show him how it’s done, but then give him back a closed box so he can try again on his own.
Setting a goal or target, which is not unrealistic but certainly a stretch, and letting the child figure out how to get there, is the primary premise of learning. I wrote an earlier blog post about the Creative Stretch as well.
This child development model is similar to how the knowledge professionals should be groomed, matured and trained. Give a challenging goal and let them figure it out themselves.
While watching a cricket match over the weekend, the commentators were lamenting why a particular player was not selected for the encounter. They argued that he had been performing well, is an important member of the team and had no injuries. They conjectured and speculated. There did not seem to be any apparent reason not to pick him for the match. Suddenly, the captain and coach looked dumb.
Every day, we come across decisions around us that apparently do not make sense. A logical analysis of the known facts and visible indicators reveal them as imprudent and silly. There is a giant corporate’s surprise decision to acquire a startup; another is firing an apparently well-performing CEO; another decides to ban work from home; there is a surprise decision to bypass someone for a promotion (he had already planned the party); a product is retired that seemed to just start making money; or a player not picked up to play when that was all that made sense.
These executives making all these big decisions – they are all morons! Who put them in there in the first place?