Going Pro…

These articles point to some keys towards becoming a pro: (a) work done in a challenging environment, (b) in real time, with (c) real rewards on the line, (d) enjoyably, (e) committed, (f) with an expert attitude (e.g. keeping the lid of one’s mind’s open all the time; to inspect, criticize and augment its contents) and (g) supported by the experience and wisdom of professional, expert, successful others.

A decade is probably a necessary, but not a sufficient (lots of novices put in the time!) condition for becoming a pro.

Three related viewpoints are offered:

I. “Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Yearshere.

 

Learn Pascal in Three Days

(It differentiates itself from such a book as “Learn Pascal in Three Days”)

 

 

Quote:

“Researchers (Hayes, Bloom) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, painting, piano playing, swimming, tennis, and research in neuropsychology and topology. There appear to be no real shortcuts: even Mozart, who was a musical prodigy at age 4, took 13 more years before he began to produce world-class music”

Recommendations (some paraphrased):

1. Get interested… and do some because it is fun. Make sure that it keeps being enough fun so that you will be willing to put in ten years.

2. Talk to others, study the work others are doing well in the field.

3. Do the work. The best kind of learning is learning by doing. To put it more technically, “the maximal level of performance for individuals in a given domain is not attained automatically as a function of extended experience, but the level of performance can be increased even by highly experienced individuals as a result of deliberate efforts to improve.” (p. 366) and “the most effective learning requires a well-defined task with an appropriate difficulty level for the particular individual, informative feedback, and opportunities for repetition and corrections of errors.”

Some may refer to number three as “get x years of experience, not one year of experience x times”.

 

II. Secrets of the Expert Mind

 

SciAm The cover story of August 2006 issue of Scientific American is thoughtful essay by Phillip E. Ross on “The Expert Mind” (p.46)

 

 

Quotes (four excerpts):

A man walks along the inside of a circle of chess tables, glancing at each for two to three seconds before making his move. Dozens of amateurs sit pondering his replies. The year is 1909, the man is Jose Raul Capablanca, and the result is 28 wins in as many games, part of a tour in which Capablanca won 168 games in a row.

How did he play so well so quickly? How far ahead can he calculate in this time? “I see only one move ahead,” Capablanca said, “but it is the right one.”

Overview/ Lessons from Chess

  1. Because skill at chess can be easily measured and subjected to laboratory experiments, the game has become an important test bed for theories in cognitive science.
  2. Researchers have found evidence that chess grandmasters rely on a vast store of knowledge of game positions. Some scientists have theorized that grandmasters organize the information in chunks, which can quickly be retrieved from long-term memory and manipulated in working memory.
  3. To accumulate this body of structured knowledge, grandmasters typically engage in years of effortful study, continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond their competence. The top performers in music, mathematics and sports appear to gain their expertise in the same way, motivated by competition and the joy of victory.

The 10-year rule states that it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field.

(He) argues that what matters is not experience per se but “effortful study”. That’s why enthusiasts can spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level… Even the novice engages in effortful study at first, improving rapidly… but having reached an acceptable level – most people relax. In contrast, experts-in-training keep the lid of their mind’s box open all the time, so that they can inspect, criticize and augment its contents, and thereby approach the standard set by the leaders in their fields.

 

III Going Pro

 

Steven Pressfield’s the War of Art

 

 

 

It is one thing to STUDY WAR,

and another to LIVE THE WARRIOR’s LIFE.

-Telamon of Arcadia, fifth century B.C. mercenary

Professionals and Amateurs

Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro.

The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child. With one stroke, everything changes.

The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps .

To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation .

The amateur plays part-time. The professional full-time .

The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning “to love”. The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough . If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline from his “real” vocation.

The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

That’s what I mean when I say turning pro.

Resistance hates it when we turn pro.

 

Q4 Take-Away (Fire in one’s Belly)

 

quad

At the top of this page, we summarized: The (above) articles point to some keys towards becoming a pro: (a) work done in a challenging environment, (b) in real time, with (c) real rewards on the line, (d) enjoyably, (e) committed, (f) with an expert attitude (e.g. keeping the lid of one’s mind’s open all the time; to inspect, criticize and augment its contents) and (g) supported by the experience and wisdom of professional, expert, successful others.

In other words – take on the tough ones, the big ones, not recklessly yet with failure being a possibility.

That’s certainly not the easiest nor the safest path. However, if you can brook no other option, you will know that it’s the necessary path for you.

Ranier Maria Rilke had the following to say about this “fire in the belly” for one’s profession; in this case it was in a Letter to a Young Poet:

Quote:

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse

In my post called “Quadrant Four Project Management” I propose that for some of us, maybe 15% of a typical population, there is a particular context towards life or a world-view that is characterized phenomenologically. Part of the Quad Four characterization is work towards “the greater good”. And while your profession is never all-encompassing, it should align. The work of the above three authors appears to do so.

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