Thursday, February 24, 2011

Purpose

If you don't have a Kindle, get one. They rock. The first three books I read on mine have been:

1) Bounce by Matthew Syed
2) Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Bounce extends Gladwell's 10,000 hour principle, but rather than focusing on whether people achieve what they do through talent, hard work, luck or a combination, it looks at the concept of purposeful practice. If you ponder the things you have spent 10,000 hours doing, it is likely you will concede that you are not an expert at all of them. In many cases we are on Auto-Pilot, and so most of the hours smudge into one big blur of plodding on - even if they are funnish and pass the time.

Committed was purposeful in a different way. Gilbert was forced to confront something she was dead set against, and was yet forced to do. She didn't just accept it but really confronted and studied the thing she feared. Yup, she knew the conclusion in the beginning. There was no escape. So her book is not an example of really challenging a deeply held belief with the possibility that you may be wrong - it is more an example of creating a story that you can accept that helps you accept the cards you are dealt. We all do that all the time. If we weren't able to create (often false) stories to make us feel better, we would be doomed to a life of regret. She just upped the rigour of her story creation to a new level, and the resultant book was entertaining.

Finally, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is actually quite close to Bounce, but in this case the 'purposeful practice' is anything but optional. This is the story of a Chinese woman with deeply held beliefs about parenting that are very different from the society she lives in fighting like the title of the book suggests. In some ways I am jealous of the heroins of this story. I would love to play the violin or the piano like they do. I have never had the focus to pursue a single activity with the laser pointed devotion (that was admittedly forced on them). Mine has been more of a scatter gun approach, with a fair dose of lying on the couch watching cricket (come on South Africa! AB and Tahir you boytjies!). Books like this get me going though. It is like watching Good Will Hunting, Beautiful Mind, Dead Poets' Society or Proof.

Exciting times.
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