Saturday, October 9, 2010


A while ago I blogged about the 10,000 hour rule. That's where they found that, in order to be a world-class expert at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it. If that doesn't seem like a lot, then think about it as taking 417 days straight (about 1 year and 2 months) of doing nothing but your chosen subject. That means no eating, sleeping or potty breaks. Now are you overwhelmed?

Well, there's another part to the formula, and that's passion. No, not the romantic kissy-face kind, but the kind that lights you on fire so that you hardly want to do anything else. I often tell my students that there are two secrets to success in music (Those of you who have not signed the non-disclosure agreement need to stop here). Secret #1 is practice (i.e. 10,000 hour rule) and Secret #2 is have fun (passion).

I began to ponder this more as I've struggled to balance my two careers: music and writing. I realized a few months ago that I no longer had the passion for music that I once had. Tragic? Maybe, since it's still the way I make my living. I found myself preferring writing over practicing my ax (yes, my ax is a sax, hence my other website: I still enjoyed playing my saxophone and clarinet, but I had to almost force myself to do it. I began to worry, because I used to love spending hours with my instrument. What was wrong with me?

So now I have a passion for writing. That has carried me through writing about 400,000 words so far this year. I sometimes can hardly wait for an opportunity to get back to my writing computer so that I can continue work on my next novel (currently: Time Gangsters). I realized that the writing passion supplanted my music passion after I got my first royalty check. I did the math and found I was making about 30 cents an hour writing. My logical brain said, "This is a stupid waste of time." My artistic, creative brain said, "Let's get back to work on the next novel."

Maybe another name for this could be 'fun'. If we are going to put the quantity time in (10,000 hours), we need to really enjoy it. It doesn't matter if we want to be a musician, writer, computer programmer, or horse manure shoveler, if we want to be an expert at it, we need to find the passion to help us get through all those hours.

I know on my way to the 10,000 hours of music, there were dark times; times I wanted to quit. There are times when all the learning and practice can begin to seem dull and uninspiring. That's when we need to look back to why we started this project in the first place and remember our passion. It can carry you through, and when you reach the other side, you will be better for it.

This is the challenge for all of us: to find our passion in life. There can be more than one thing we are passionate about and if that's the case, then we just need to find ways to balance them. My passions in life are faith, family, music, and writing. By pursuing my passions, though, I find myself living a fun and fulfilling life.

Oh, and for those of you worried about my waning passion for music, it's back. I had to force myself to put my sax down yesterday so that I could get back to writing. Of course, I'm in the dreaded 'editing' stage right now. I now have to use my sax as the reward for a good writing session.

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