On Passions & Practice
I have a wide range of interests. A quick perusal through this website should tell you as much. I’ve got writing, photography, video, some small design elements, code, and that’s just limited to the confines of this digital nook in the wall. My interests go even further beyond that, into music, video games, biking, reading, sports, language, meditation, cooking, studying (is that a hobby?) Sometimes it’s hard to know where to focus your time and energy.
I’ve written before about the problems in specialization If you focus all your attentive hours into only a small subset of your interests, you’ll see your abilities in other areas diminish. I’m certainly no proponent of the “10,000 hours” plan, but I think a concentrated regular practice is important for most progress in a given discipline. After all, they’re not referred to as disciplines because to be lazy about them.
In general, my philosophy for focus is similar to Brennan Letkeman’s, as outlined in his interview: do what you want to do, when you want to do it. That’s worked for me so far, but sometime you need to force yourself to work on an area in a more concentrated manor. I’m reminded of a quote by Neil Gaiman, where he says “If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist.” I tend to agree. (and even then my poetry isn’t any good)
However, I append one small rule onto this: Only do one thing at a time. I don’t listen to music while I bike. I don’t write while I’m playing video games. I do one thing, and then I stop it and move on. If you’ve having trouble with this, I have found Josh’s Log system to be a motivator to stay on task, at least while on my computer.
I’ve read a lot of books on the process of learning and practice, and I’m curious to try and execute on these philosophies more. However, it’s difficult to try and find what to apply these to. I’m going to think about this more, and expand on my thoughts in another post soon.
For now though, I think it’s important to find what you’re passionate about, across disciplines, and focus time and energy into improving your abilities at them. You never know what could become useful, and even skills that will never directly affect your life will teach you valuable skills, even just about how best to teach yourself. That’s the most important skill of all.
It’s okay to do something that isn’t your prime goal, and to work towards things that are frivolous. Do everything. Practice anything that interests you. The most interesting stuff is when people combine things in ways no one else can. What’s the point otherwise?