4th April 2019

“Instantaneous expectations”

Instant Everything

A friend recently asked me what really got me wound up these days so you can imagine it didn’t take long for me to start ranting. I guess it is one of the privileges of getting older. One of the things I mentioned to him has really been occupying some mind space since that conversation and that is the fact that we live in a world where everything is expected to be instant.

Now I have no problem with instant coffee and little problem with instant access but I do have a problem with instant everything. Just because we can access knowledge very quickly doesn’t mean that everyone who has accessed some knowledge is an instant expert.

There really are no shortcuts to excellence and we would be fooling ourselves if we let ourselves believe otherwise. Yet today we are promised instant riches, instant success and instant results as though mastery was something you could acquire in an instant.

Back in the wild west charlatans would sell flavoured water as something to cure all ills to the unsuspecting and naïve public. Today someone who has watched a 20 minute you tube video will profess to be a marketing guru and sell you their wisdom. There is little difference.

Anyone who wants to sell you overnight success or overnight wealth is not interested in your success; they are interested in your money.

I absolutely believe and have proved that some solutions can be very quick. I have seen phobias and fears removed very quickly. I have seen people change very quickly. I have achieved many of these with and for people but I have never seen anyone develop mastery, true mastery, of anything worthwhile quickly. Whether we are talking about doing a Rubik’s cube, or selling, or kicking a football, mastery is a level that can only be achieved through time and practice.

In fact there are a number of books that propose the argument that true mastery takes a minimum of 10, 000 hours. And the hours they refer to are not simply 10,000 hours of execution but 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. That is deliberate, usually observed repetition, with feedback with the specific and deliberate intention of getting better.

You can debate the 10,000 hours theory all you want but instant mastery is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. Mastery, true mastery, takes time and it takes observed practice. None of that is to say that accelerated proficiency is not possible. Of course it is. Under the right supervision and the right tutelage it is entirely possible to rapidly become much, much better at most things but true mastery develops over time, like fine wine or adulthood.

We have always been easily seduced by the promise of overnight success. This seduction seems all the more feasible in this world of instant access, instant knowledge and instant connections but reality hasn’t changed. Mastery is the desire to get better at something that matters and that necessarily takes time.

So an important question to consider is what is there in your life that matters enough to invest the time and effort to gain mastery of it?