In a remarkable interview in the recent Esquire magazine, Teller (of the famous magic duo, Penn & Teller) reveals his practice routine to master a new trick he has developed called the Red Ball (whereby a ball appears to roll all over the stage, moved by the mind).
Writes journalist Chris Jones, “He practiced at a mirrored dance studio in Toronto, and at a cabin deep in the woods, and on the empty stage in Pell & Teller’s theater. After every show for eighteen months, he would spend at least an hour, by himself, trying to make the Red Ball obey.”
Now that he is performing the piece, Teller says, “In six months or a year, it will start to settle in my bones. In ten years, it’ll be perfect.”
Many of us have read Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion (from his book, Outliers) that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a true expert. (terrific infographic of the concept here). I know very few people who disagree with Gladwell’s thesis. After all, we’ve been told practice makes perfect since we were cherubs.
Teller has a stellar quote in the interview:
Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.
We know mastery takes time yet we rarely defend the principle, going from knee-jerk to whipsaw and chasing the flavor of the day as if being first, rather than being the best, was the core objective.
Better, or Busier?
This is the age of the Invitation Avalanche. Every customer or prospective customer of your business is besieged by offers to friend, follow, like, watch, read, view, click, print, and “engage.” And every time you agree to add another social media channel, or expand your content marketing without the aid of additional resources, or in any other fashion do more without also doing better, you are not improving your ability to cut through the avalanche, you are diminishing it. You’re just becoming noise.
I get it. I really do. This always-on world where I can consume – via a smartphone – no fewer than 40 blog posts about today’s changes at Facebook while still in my underpants eating cereal, is not particularly conducive to patience and restraint. We see new “opportunities,” and competitors and benchmark companies trying interesting new approaches, and we want to get in that game as well. If blog posts generate traffic, why not publish one per day? Why not two per day? Why not seven? Let’s add video. And Pinterest. And a mobile app. And skywriting.
It’s so very easy to get caught up in a mentality of “more is better,” and it makes the often thorny issue of measurement fade into the background, as we find ourselves justifying our marketing actions based on volume, not behavior.
We’ve moved this blog from three posts per week, to six. I started a podcast. A daily email newsletter. I have 8 Webinars scheduled between now and the end of the year. We have three eBooks in the works. And a new full-length book (Youtility) I’m currently writing. Is tackling that array of content and communication creating mastery, or is it creating noise? Is it accumulating 10,000 hours, or is it atomizing them into 1,000 hours in each of 10 different arenas?
Am I getting better, or just getting busier?