Djcnor’s Weblog

People Skills

Posted on: November 19, 2008

This last Saturday, I read a fascinating article in the magazine section of the Guardian. I’d link it, but I’ve never been able to find articles from the weekend magazine on their website. It was about a book by Malcolm Gladstone that is about to come out called The Outliers. It’s all about those folks who excel in their field and research showing that major standouts have spent 10,000 hours practicing their thing, whether that be hockey or the violin or computer programming. His point is that if you have innate talent in a field, what determines whether you or someone else who also has innate talent excels is how much time each of you devotes to it. Furthermore, the circumstances in which a person is given the opportunity to spend that much time on one thing are also rare.

10,000 hours doesn’t sound that extraordinary until you start doing the math. For example, this month, like about 100,000 other people, I’m doing NaNoWriMo. That is, I’m trying to write a 50,000 word novel over the month of November. That comes to 1667 words per day, which takes me an average of 5 hours per day. Still, if I manage to do this every single day, at the end of the month, I’ll have only put in 150 hours, which is only 1.5% of the  10,000 hours I’ll need to put in to excel as a writer, assuming I have the required innate talent for it. I would have to keep this up for 67 more months, nearly 6 years. Wow!

The question is, what endows any person with that amount of sustained interest in one thing?  What if you’re the kind of person who has many interests? What about those folks like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Buckminster Fuller, Da Vinci, etc. etc. etc. who have been interested in any number of things and have still managed to excel? And does that mean that excelling in anything and living a balanced life are incompatible?

I was talking about the book on a discussion group, and someone mentioned his other book, The Tipping Point, which presented the contention that those folks who make a difference in the world are either Connetors (knowing everybody and bringing together folk who need to know each other), Mavens (who collect information and distribute it to those who need the information, and Salesmen (who can convince the appropriate people to take a certain action).

I’m a maven type of person, and I’d love to be really outstanding at something, but I have dozens of interests and have had three careers in very different areas. I’m also really bad at the Connecting part and none to good at the Salesman part. My latest enthusiasm and ambition is to become a professional freelance writer.

I’ve been reading a highly recommended book on the subject The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World by Linda Jones (which I should link, but I’m new to WordPress and need to take the time to learn that, so I’ll have to edit this later). According to this book,  I need desperately to become one of those Connector types. Her logic makes sense to me. But how do I do that.

In typical “me” fashion, my first idea was to take a course in that area. Preferably, of course, a web-based course. Luckily, I have an in-house person whose talents are centered around that area, who told me in a way I understand, that this was an apprenticeship kind of skill, that I would have to go out there with people to acquire what I need. Thanks, I needed that.

So, I’ve looked up my local Toastmasters group (another link needed, I guess) and asked when their next meeting is.

Keeping a regular blog, commenting on other blogs on similar subjects, and answering any and all comments on my own. So every day, I must faithfully do that as well, with my NaNoWriMo book suffering somewhat as a result. Never mind. It’s good. I will finish it as I did last years, though not in as timely a manner. (I’ve got The Devil’s War about the English Civil War in the background, and I take on speech patterns easily.) Comment as you will, and I will answer.

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4 Responses to "People Skills"

Hello fellow Maven. I enjoyed reading your post. You say you are not a natural connector, but you have a great way of connecting ideas. Here’s a little encouragement to you to keep it up.

Thanks. It’s true, I’m not so bad on paper. Hence my immediate thought of an on-line course and my visits to on-line discussions. Now to develop my skills with real live humans. (I can already talk to dogs, just fine. We have grand discussions.

I’ll be visiting your website to see what type of info you maven.

VirtualHippe was set up for NaNo this year – my novel is about corporate heroes who turn out to be not so human in an Absurd Universe. Now that I am close to finishing the story it was become a satirical fanatasy about ordinary working life!

Congratulations! I wish I could say the same. Somehow, knowing that I could not possibly finish the 50,000 words while doing the other things that are requirements in my life this month has really discouraged me in working on my NaNo. I blame the folks who took our computer after I had only written two days forcing me to start over. I also blame the poor economy since I’m job hunting and have really felt the pressure to be extra meticulous in completing as many job applications in really good form each day as I can. Since many are several pages these days, it’s had work, but I suppose good practice for my writing skills.

(If you’ve got an editorial or proofreading or writing job available, please comment.)

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