Dear Mr. Psychologist/Scientist guy,
I only have a minute. Do you know why? Because the other ten thousand hours of my life are tied up schlepping my kids between elite hockey tournaments and Suzuki recitals. Which brings me to my point.
Remember that crap you made up about needing 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to master a skill? You know, your big discovery that was co-opted by Malcolm Gladwell. (By the way, sorry about that. Maybe you should have put a few thousand hours into trademarking your work.) Anyway, I’m sure it’s true, but it’s made life hell for me and every other parent I know.
Parents everywhere are obsessed with making sure their progeny get in “10,000 hours.” Into what? you ask? It doesn’t matter! Formerly sane people get apoplectic if little Johnny hasn’t found his “thing” and started on his road to “mastery” by the time he’s six. We all know that you have to start ‘em young if they’re going to get any good. What does it take to get to Carnegie Hall? Ten thousand freaking hours.
No doubt you were just going about your little psychologist life, trying to do some theoretical research, writing some peer reviewed articles, changing the world, blah blah blah. Well, you certainly changed the world. Time, sanity, normal childhood play, that “rainy day fund” grandma thought was securely invested… all gone. It happened in a blink.
The quest to find that “thing” is like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail. Or was that Monty Python? Who the hell knows? Does anyone have time to re-watch classic movies anymore? No, because we’re standing in line signing up our kids for another damn activity.
Did you know there are no more recreational activities? If you’re not on select, rep, travel, or competitive programs you are nothing. Weekly lessons and house leagues are for amateurs. They won’t rack up 10,000 hours! Kids need to apply themselves. The other day there was an incident involving a father counting split times at a local swimathon. For 7 and 8 year olds. For charity.
It’s full throttle all the time. Go hard or go home. We’ve reached the tipping point. Wait a sec… oh, forget it.
You know, I’d like to know how you came up with this random number. Not 2000, not 4000, not 6384. Ten thousand goddamn hours.
Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, since you’re so good at math, riddle me this: What’s the exact amount of money and time a parent should spend trying out every sport, musical instrument, or extracurricular activity before they say, “My kid sucks at this.”
Ten thousand hours is a long time. It’s a lot of wear on my tires and my neural synapses. When do we pack it in and let the chips fall where they may. I mean, we are not going to the Olympics. Well, I might be going to the Olympics. To watch other people’s kids. The ones who started at 5 so they could get in their 10000 hours.
It’s exhausting. There was this book that came out, and I thought it might turn the tide. It claimed underdogs and people named David sometimes have an advantage over people named Goliath. Or something like that. I didn’t have time to finish it. It never caught on quite the same.
Regardless, the damage has already been done. You’ve created a generation of crazed parents and kids who eat dinner in minivans.
I’m sure you never planned for this to happen: for a simple theory on expert performance to become the siren call for childhood success. It’s what economists, social scientists and people who like to use big words call the Law of Unintended Consequences. Have you heard of that theory? If not, I’m sure Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it somewhere.
Anyway, I’m at the arena—my time is up.