5,000 Hours

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Click to hear her play

 

Malcolm Gladwell estimates it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be world class at a skill. 

But a new study destroys that rule.

In any case, we’ve estimated that with regular practice, rehearsals, competitions and school orchestra, the girls have at least 5,000 of deliberate practice under their belt. 

In nearly nine years of playing, the girls have not once said they want to quit. I attribute that to the fact that they only play violin – they do not do any other extracurriculars. The upsides of “being good” at something are: self-confidence, self-discipline and optimism! 

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Click to hear her play

 

The Trick

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My doodle of daisies

If you’ve read Aesop’s fable, The Crow and the Pitcher, you know that the moral is “Little by little does the trick.”  My 5th graders read the fable and then were assigned a response: Give an example from your own life that describes this moral.

Here are a few responses:

  • “I got more flexible by stretching every single day, now I can do the full splits!”
  • “I practiced drawing every day and now I’m really good.”
  • “I saved up for an expensive video game by practicing piano every day (got paid $2 each day).”
  • “My mom used to be addicted to soda. Each day, she drank a little less. Now, when she has some, she feels sick.”
  • “We planted watermelon seeds and watered it every day. We got a watermelon!”
  • “I have played tennis since I was three. I play three to five times a week and I’m really good now.”
  • “It’s really hard for me to wake up in the mornings. When my alarm goes off, slowly, inch by inch, I move sideways to the lamp and turn it on and get out of bed.”

 

When can you do little by little to achieve your goals?

 

 

 

Habitats & Habits

I feel sorry for my sixth graders.

When I was in sixth grade, the only technologies to distract me were the TV and radio. I received my beloved yellow Sony Walkman years later. But even then, in order to make a mix tape, I had to listen to the radio on my boombox and catch my favorite song, hit “record” and “stop” at just the right time.

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Now, the barrage of sounds and images are relentless. You can hear the voices of your peers night and day from your phone. You can catch your favorite TV or film or YouTuber or musician 24/7. Filters and editing programs make everyone look slim, smooth and shiny. 

And if you’re one of the very few who does not own a phone, you might be ostracized. You are deemed too poor or your parents are too strict. You’re square (do they say that anymore)! Regardless, laptops are ubiquitous. The temptation to enter fantasy land is everywhere

I just completed reading Eric Barker’s “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” The book is a compelling read, replete with interesting anecdotes and scientific data to back up his various assertions regarding personal success. One of the most important tips he offers is the adage “control your environment.” A closely linked axiom: know thyself

The most successful and productive people practice this. A few examples:

  • disconnect from the internet while working;
  • place cell phone in the other room;
  • never keep junk food in the house;
  • never hit snooze – get right up (!);
  • work before pleasure;

and so on.

I remind my students that “success” – whatever they define it to be – is within their reach. But they must make a commitment to it and do the necessary work.

Now, more than ever, knowing oneself and taking actions to ensure meeting one’s potential might be the most challenging – yet important – task at hand.

 

1-2-3

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I was preparing to do a backbend with pushups (yes, it’s just as fun as it sounds!) when I was filled with dread and doubt. But Jillian said, “One, two, three!” and I started bending my arms slowly, until my head touched the ground and then I straightened my arms. I did 15 of those. It was grueling. I hated it. I’m glad it’s over.

There’s something about counting…counting down or counting up, it doesn’t matter. Notice when parents tell their kids to do something and they start counting: “ONE…TWO…!” The kids hup to it before “THREE!” Why? They just know they better get going. It’s a weird motivator.

I love this Ted Talk from Mel Robbins. She says the key to success in anything is to know one thing:”You’re never going to feel like it.” You’re never going to feel excited to do those backbend pushups, you’re not going to feel like jumping out of bed to get to work first (well, probably not…) and you’re not going to feel like eating salad instead of cheesecake.

But in those areas of your life that are working, you are doing the things you don’t necessarily feel like doing. You’re exercising self-discipline. Robbins’ “Five Second Rule” is to take action no longer than five seconds from the moment you have the thought, I should…

I should get out of bed now…

I should go for a run…

I should send that email asking for a favor…

I should clean the fridge…

I should go to bed now…

Try it. The rule is, you have five seconds from the time you have the thought. Or make your own countdown!

 

 

 

Apps Used to Stand for Appetizers

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Photo by Tim Mossholder

Apps have become so ubiquitous that we joke, “There’s an app for that.”

And yes, technology can help you achieve your goals and it can entertain you, but when it comes to creating art or work or works of art, there is no substitute for the consistent effort and focus on it.

Sitting under a tree, pondering nature all around you…that is how Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity. So legend has it.

Objective and careful observation of nature, our pets, our loved ones is how we will help society. Sustained effort  for the greater good is what will be effective. Apps and other technology alone won’t do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tae Kwon Do

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When I was a teenager, my sister, brother and I studied Tae Kwon Do with the late, great Chung Kim. It was one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve ever done because the studio was very “old school.” Classes were not designed to entice kids to join and have a “good time.” It was all about self-discipline and focus. We had to do knuckle pushups if we made a mistake. We free sparred grown men. We practiced, breathed, and lived according to the tenets of CIPSI:

Courtesy (respect)

Integrity (ethics)

Perseverance

Self-Control

Indomitable (unconquerable) Spirit

I remember the physical pain of knuckle push-ups, sparring, and sit-ups. I remember silently crying because I failed a belt test or failed at something else. It was more painful than not. It was more frustrating and frightening than not. But in the end, my siblings and I earned our 1st degree black belts.

There was a hearing impaired couple – man and wife – who were practicing in the studio. I watched them, mesmerized. It was already so hard! How did they do it? People are amazing. If person set goals and believe 100% in themselves, they will accomplish their goal. I saw this first hand in the dojang and I see it every day in my students.

Every important lesson I’ve learned in life bloomed in that stinky studio. Focus on what you’re doing. Control your mind and your body. Visualize your goals. Work hard. Never quit.

Never quit!

Master Kim, thank you for leaving such a valuable legacy.

 

 

Dear Ms.K., Thank You for Giving My Daughter Detention

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Dear Ms. K.,

I want to thank you for giving my daughter detention today. Per our previous email, you informed me that she has been late to your class every day for several days. This baffled me, as I drop her off an hour early and you are her first class of the day. After several warnings, you emailed me to let me know that should she be late again, she would get detention. I assured you she would not repeat that mistake.

But of course, I cannot guarantee the actions of anyone besides myself.

After confronting her, she hurriedly assured me she learned her lesson. She explained that she gets hungry and her friend meets her to bring her food. Her friend is not always so quick.

Oh, are we blaming our friend?

No, no. It’s not her fault. Mom, it won’t happen again!

I try to give my daughter freedom within strict guidelines. A  “C” in a class at any time means her cell phone gets confiscated until the grade goes up. How she operates within her hours and activities is up to her.

When I remind her to make time for breakfast in the mornings and to pack a snack, I am met with heavy sighs. She is too busy styling her hair and applying makeup to worry about breakfast.

So it happened again today. She didn’t eat breakfast. She got hungry and met her friend. She was late to your class. And, as you promised, she will now have to serve detention – one hour after school tomorrow.

In the car, she was shaken. She’s never had this kind of consequence from a teacher before.

“It’s my fault. I got hungry. I didn’t pack any snacks or eat breakfast. It’s my responsibility. I will pack food the night before.”

I wanted to lecture  her and reinforce the lesson. I wanted to voice my dismay and disappointment. Instead, I said, “I am very proud of you for taking responsibility for this and not blaming anyone.”

Thank you, Ms. K., for doing the right thing. You are helping my daughter develop character and responsibility.