It takes 7 years to build mastery. That either sounds long to you or it sounds like you have time to become very good at 7 totally different things after college. Which perception you take is your test....
For all 10 episodes of the Transformation Series: charleskunken.com/season1
Right around your SAT’s the societal narrative seized control. Age 17, time to pick a college and major that will define the rest of your life.
You don’t want to seem ‘lost’, do you?
Boy, the beginning of the end sure starts early around here.
It’s not insane that you’re unhappy. You stopped experimenting with new things when you were 21.
Unhappy is the only rational outcome based on your behavior.
The only irrational thing is how you’re perplexed by it.
How weird would it be to tell your kids not to start dance because it would take five years to get any good?
Or not to start playing tee ball unless they could show immediate results.
So what’s the biological phenomena that flips us to think its good advice for ourselves when we turn 21?
There’s no reason to assume we’ve found the best use of our lives by then. Our activities to date have been limited to stuff that was close - our parents or our friends knew about it. That covers a very small fraction of the possibilities.
It’s useful to assume you’ve tried <.0001% of your options.
The odds are you haven’t found it yet.
Do you see now why you shouldn’t be surprised?
I bet you’ve gotten good at justifying why you can’t try something new. It’s ‘too late’, right? Let’s test your logic.
Say you’re my age, 35 and you wish you could play the piano. How long would it take you to get ‘good’? One year of regular practice? Two years? Three?
Even if it’s five, by my count that means that by 40 you could be pretty decent. Then you might have 40+ years in front of you with this new proficiency. You could spend more than half of your life being able to enjoy it. Or…
You could not start.
Then wait five years.
Then turn 40.
And keep crying that mommy and daddy didn’t sign you up when you were little.
A Job To Do
I don’t care what growing up was like. There was a sperm and an egg and you won the footrace of a lifetime.
It’s not up to your parents to magically guess what your passion is going to be and then get you into lessons by age 4.
They gave you life. It’s your job to seek.
And to lead the next generation by example.
You’re not going to be able to guess your kids’ passion either. But you can show them what it looks like to search.
Believe me, they’ll remember. Wouldn’t you?
My Grandfather used to say, ‘you have to be willing to start in Kindergarten.’
I’ll add that you not only need the humility to begin but you have to be willing to go through 1st, 2nd, 3rd (etc.) grades as well.
But I dismiss the argument that your window has passed because a child’s brain is primed for new skill intake.
Your adult brain has the advantage of maturity. You’re more capable of deliberate practice, patience, and focus.
I argue that you’re even better equipped now.
Here’s another lesson. When you were little you wanted to take dance class because…well, because you wanted to go dance that afternoon.
When you try new things out of love, the years it takes to get decent is the reward.
I don’t’ care if your 64 and want to start medical school. If it makes you happy then you can become a doctor in 4 years. Or not.
If you want to make the argument that it’s better to just sit around and wait to turn 68 then go ahead, I won’t try to stop you.
But the blessing of having a mind plus the billion-to-one chance that you’re actually here is enough reason to go for it.
Think of everything you learned during your first two decades of life. And that’s with several years of just learning how to not poop on yourself.
Then, with possibly seventy more years ahead you slammed the door shut, just as things were starting to heat up.
You stopped testing before you tried enough and for some reason you convinced yourself that this was a normal way to live.
That’s why you’re unhappy.
Time is on your side.
Get back out there and try some stuff.
And stop pooping on yourself.