Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thanks, Fred

The good news: I did not make a total arse of myself during my first-ever surfing lesson.

The bad news: It was nonetheless clear that I will not be mastering that sport in this lifetime.

Aside from forcing my ridiculously nervous self down to Waikiki and forking out $40 to fling myself into the ocean with only a really huge board tied to my ankle to save me, I managed to read the entirety of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” on vacation. He has many fascinating things to say about success, mostly converging on the themes of luck and hard work.

The good news and the bad news: Luck I can’t do much about. Hard work is entirely up to me.

Gladwell describes the 10,000 hour rule, which declares that mastery of anything can be achieved with the investment of 10,000 hours of good old-fashioned hard work. This implies that, were I to move nearer the ocean and continue to wade into it daily for the next decade or two, I could potentially still become a pretty decent surfer.

However, as I hauled the board up onto the sand three days ago, arms shaking from the effort of one hour’s worth of learning something altogether new, it occurred to me that I am already well on my way to those 10,000 spent writing, and perhaps it is just common sense to apply myself where I have a solid head start.

The very best part? I had expected some local surfer dude as my instructor: young, muscled, long-haired and full of himself. Instead I got Fred: local, all right—as well as scrawny, balding and 68 years old. I LOVED Fred. Fred was patient. Fred called me sweetheart. Fred had me riding waves within 25 minutes.

Fred has been surfing for 60 years. He is the embodiment of the 10,000 hour rule. As a surfer, he is beyond competent, delighted to be out there, and happy to share his knowledge.

My new goal: when I am 68, to be the Fred of writing.

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