“Focus hard. In reasonable bursts. One day at a time.”

Nov 11 2011 Published by under Articles,Questions,Reflections

I love receiving emails from my friend Nitin because they contain to-the-point reflections, articles and research tidbits that always stop me in my tracks. Today he sent me a series of links from Study Hacks: Decoding Patterns of Success - reflections from a computer scientist (Cal Newport) who systematically studies, “why some people lead successful, enjoyable, meaningful lives, while so many others do not”.

The posts focused on the habits of average versus elite writersviolin players and Rhodes Scholars. If you look at “elite” players across various fields of endeavor, you’ll find some interesting (and similar) patterns.

  • The average players are working just as many hours as the elite players.
  • but they’re not dedicating these hours to the right type of work (i.e., the methodical work of stretching your ability)
  • and furthermore, they spread this work haphazardly throughout the daySo even though they’re not doing more work than the elite players, they end up sleeping less and feeling more stressed. 

Newport adds:

This analysis leads to an important conclusion. Whether you’re a student or well along in your career, if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you’re chronically stressed and up late working, you’re doing something wrong…You’ve built a life around hard to do work, not hard work.

If you are interested in this topic, two additional resources come to mind:

  • Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers–a behind the scenes look at the habits of “elite” players like Bill Gates and the Beatles. Through Outliers I too learned that the people “at the top of their fields” practice a lot (i.e. the “10,000 Hour Rule”). But that practice is not arduous. Rather it is focused, yet playful.
  • Coaches Training Institute courses–Through CTI, I learned that being “busy” or being “stressed” is a choice. I can choose to be a victim of circumstance or I can be creative, playfully and the artist of my own circumstances. I can approach life with fear or I can approach life with joy and limitless possibility. By observing my thought patterns and consciously shifting my perspectives, the world and my activities within it change completely.

Success means different things to different people obviously. So, studies like the ones mentioned by Newport or Gladwell should be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless, I think they are useful to read because they highlight some very important questions worth a focused, yet playful ponder:

  • What does a successful life mean to you?
  • How do you want to perceive the world?
  • What habits do you wish to cultivate in pursuit of your version of “a successful life”?

To finding our own versions of success and bliss!


Image under CC Licensure by rolohauck


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