Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, gave us a new language to understand “expertise” and the “study of” a subject. I found it fascinating to think about the subjects that I had dedicated that kind of time to.
While we may gain wisdom and consciousness through the study of ourselves over a lifetime, we also become more concluded about who we think we are. I hear it lots of times, “It’s just the way I am.” Or, “I know what I’m good at and what I’m not.” Maybe even, “I’ve learned my lessons through my experiences, I know what I’m doing now”.
Inside of this conversation about internal schooling, I’d like to share a bit about what I discovered:
My early life was characterized by a bunch of “unsafe stuff” – kids, parents, relatives, teachers. Lots of cruel, unloving, goading, teasing, undermining, humiliating actions directed at each other and me. 10,000 hours spent constructing a life to protect myself took some real skill and attention.
Think about the strategy. Avoid mean people, avoid scenarios that I don’t want to encounter “mean” and act in a way that keeps others from wanting to unhappy in such a way as to instigate an unsafe experience.
Those 10,000 hours were spent erecting defenses and making “right” decisions for myself. These right decisions were validated by my “gut” feelings and even acknowledged by those around me. But it didn’t develop the kind of expertise that produces a life of possibility, of novelty or profound wonder. It didn’t produce a life where I’m at the source of what happens and able to experience the true power of being “me”.
No… that expertise only produced my existing, surviving and feeling vital as a by product of playing it safe and organizing myself to win.
One where we undo, question, challenge and explore. What would happen if we studied the way that we defend, the way that we avoid pain, the conclusions we formed about who we are and why? What if we engaged in an investigation designed to dislodge the learning from the 10,000 hours spent confirming our legitimate claim on “knowing” ourselves? What could life look then? Hmmm…