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This is a powerful notion. How did I, for example, become a writer? Was I born with natural abilities? Is it something I had intended and worked toward? Or was it something that just happened?
The truth is that I was definitely not a gifted writer in my early years. I had a mild learning disability that made it difficult for me to decipher words and communicate my ideas on paper. By the time I reached university, my skills were adequate, but rules for writing English seemed abstract to me and I was frustrated by my lack of success. So I tried to avoid English courses as much as possible.
Then I signed up for a class in journaling. This opened up a window to a world I never knew existed. I found myself turning to writing as a way to clarify thoughts about what I saw around me, what I saw in myself, what I feared, what I hoped for and where I found truth.
Although no one else read my work, I came to love this time alone with my thoughts and ideas as they took form on paper and guided my life in a positive way.
Being an extrovert with a sense of adventure, I also began studying other languages. The desire to communicate effectively and intelligently required that I understand structure and form, along with vocabulary. For the first time, verbs tenses, direct and indirect objects, prepositions and compound sentences began to make sense to me. I had to understand them in order to speak and write French and German in a way that others would understand.
When I went back to writing English, suddenly all of the things that my high school and university teachers had tried to teach me in grammar and composition made sense. I was able to write with a deeper sense of awareness and, thus, with much greater clarity.
I not only learned what good writing looked like, I was using effective writing skills.
Gladwell also says that, â€œResearchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.â€
This would mean that I needed to spend roughly 10 hours a week writing for 20 years in order to gain true expertise.
Looking back, this is precisely what happened once I developed a love of writing.
In order to dedicate the time necessary to gain expertise, we need to truly enjoy what weâ€™re doing.Â This too is a key to success.
What then of the people who are naturally adept? Two factors come into play. The first is that without dedicated effort, theyâ€™ll soon be passed by those who are working hard. The truth is that natural ability is only one piece of the puzzle. We also need good training, an interest and a great deal of practice.
Of course, other factors come into play when predicting success. Opportunity is vital, so itâ€™s necessary that our societies have structures in place, such as good schools, that allow people to develop their gifts.
So what determines the success of a person?
More than anything, itâ€™s our ability to put persistent effort into learning a particular skill. This is much easier to do when we love what weâ€™re doing.
As more of us dedicate our careers to doing what we love, we can only imagine the tremendous possibilities in our futures.
Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.Â
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