I’ve been thinking a lot about how big a factor talent plays in success, athletic or otherwise. Recently while playing pool, I noticed a very big difference between the way I approached a shot versus my far more skillful friend. Typically, I would take 1-2 seconds to decide on the shot to attempt then rushing to hit the ball.
On the contrary, my friend would stare at the table, carefully selecting the shot that would put him in the most advantageous position. He then would decide on where he needed the cue ball to end up after the shot, only then does he consider the actual shot to be taken. This process takes around 10 seconds versus my 3 second shot. The difference over the course of 10 games was massive. At first we were fairly even, he was perfectly his aim while I was relying on dumb luck. But after 2-3 games, he was unstoppable.
The book “Talent is Overrated” describes this remarkable process as ‘deliberate practice’ but I have a simpler term for it, concentration.
Concentration is the fundamental attribute of all great successes. Consistent focus on improving anything, be it pool or starcraft. In my opinion, concentration is a much better explanation for success than luck or god-given talent.
The best contemporary analogy I can think of would be a game of DotA. The great player are the best at last-hitting, a tedious process of timing attacks to obtain the last-hit to get the gold from a creep, while casual players (like me) are crap at it. Over 30 mins the extra gold and experience translates into better items and stronger heros.
According to the book, the average number of hours of concentrated practice required to be world class is 10 000, roughly equivalent to 10 years. So I guess the best question is what do you want to be world class at in 2022?
Journalism, my all-time second choice career.
Yesterday, I was introduced to HBO’s Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels. The show is centered around a disillusioned news anchor who decides to try a new kind of news program which avoids the typical left/right, red/blue debate, focusing instead on objective journalism.
Ignoring the implausibility of the main characters diligently climbing the ladder before spontaneously deciding to risk it all for an ideal, the show is very very good. The script and dialog are intelligent and the extremely well delivered.
But enough of the review, the show has reminded me of one of the careers I’ve always been interested in. Journalism.
The idea of doing research, analysis, cultivating sources and conducting interviews as a job is very cool. You are basically a spy. Without the whole death and torture part, unless you’re a war journalist, in which case you are totally a spy. (Side note: I wonder how many “ journalists” are actually spies? Think about it, they get access to all manner of secure areas and people. )
I’d say that the biggest lure is that you get paid to tell people your opinion on stuff, be it finance, geopolitics or tech. I already do that for free. But what area is the most interesting? Tech journalists get the first look (and feel) of all the latest toys. A paid ticket to WWDC would be awesome… Finance is probably the most interesting, but it brings with it a conflict of interest if I’m invested in an asset that I cover… Then there’s the spectre of censorship. You might never get to publish the article the way you want. Realistically, one probably has to climb through terribly boring assignments before ever getting the dream job. Still, that could probably be said of any job. At the very least it’s something to keep in mind. Daniel Khoo, Journalist has a nice ring to it…
Any information is only useful, if one possesses the background knowledge to apply it. Thus, a person can only truly ‘learn’ if he has the necessary experience. By its nature this means that the distribution of knowledge is exponential.
As a example, the majority of people understand enough about computers to check email, a slightly smaller percentage understand facebook and twitter, a significant minority know basic HTML, a minority have studied programming, a tiny minuscule percentage possess the knowledge/experience/connections to develop an Operating System. ( It is however worthwhile to note that due to the diversification and specialization in all fields this small number must be multiplied several fold).
Basically, like any good video game, the higher level you get in any discipline, the harder it becomes to progress to the next level. One’s success, as a result depends on either knowing a lot about one thing, or a some about everything. Personally, I prefer the latter.
Well, I’m currently in the midst of the World Skills Singapore competition for Web Design. I’ve just finished day one, Design, and will attempt the PHP/SQL section later. If nothing else, today has taught me that when it comes to knowledge, especially a technical subject like programming, your peers make a world of difference.
This competition forces you to compress the lengthy development process of web design into three days. Factor in the lack of internet access, and the amount you don’t know becomes painfully obvious. I was really impressed with the way some people are able to produce whole, error-free, code instantaneously. No googling for the right syntax, or hours spent pain-stakingly debugging the smallest error.
Anyway, I’ve been forced to really step-up my game and hope I can maintain it even after the competition is over. I’ve learned more PHP/JS/HTML5/CSS in the last 2 days than the last 2 months.
Anyhow, its unlikely that I’ll win anything due to the last-minute cramming, but I’ve already benefited from the experience.
Well, I’m back from internship and free to focus on my original holiday project, the late for school game.
We are making tremendous progress largely thanks to the talent of my teammates. I’m strictly doing the artwork which is a welcome change from the php/SQL of my internship.
The Splash awards are coming up and I’m hoping we can enter our game. Also, we need to look to expand the game to other platforms.
On the home front, I got an awesome new table for $80! It’s a giant table top with two supporting tripod legs. Thinking of sawing to match my rooms wall…
Back to tumblr
Its been more than 4 months since I started on tumblr and predictably after the initial curiosity I promptly forgot about it. Actually I came back to tumblr to check out its backend for a “job” I’m currently working on. The more I learn about database and server-side, the more I’m impressed by tumblr’s simple sophistication.
Why the inverted commas on job? Well, it all started with mention to a friend that I needed money for a new laptop (my 3 year old Pentium strategically goes on strike at the worst times…), our lecturers had been desperately seeking representatives for World Skills Singapore. I conceded to my friend that the prize money was attractive, the next day I get an email from the lecturer saying I was “strongly recommended”…
Now, I’m not a genius programmer with years of experience, hell I’ve only been interested in IT for like a Year… So at this point I’m undecided, especially since I was supposed to working of another project. Then 2 days later I get a call from the Lecturer! He says that the training will be provided and we will be paid to train! Ok! What could possibly go wrong?
I found out the next day when we arrived at the company for “training”. Turns out its an internship and we have to develop a cms for the company website! And thats how I got my first “job”.
I really should get back to work…
These days everyone is looking eagerly for “the next facebook”. I’d be lying if I said I was any different. But while most think it will be an innovative social network like Google+, I’d say the garage to billionaire opportunity is past. Just like the garage to billionaire opportunities in personal computers is long over.
But the question then becomes, what next?
In the days of the dot.com bubble, websites operating as standalone vendors generated millions, it was thought that the semantic web would be the next great leap forward. Instead a new type of dynamic social media emerged to bring IT entrepreneurs back into the limelight.
In hindsight, the leap from static content to user generated content is stupidly obvious.
I wonder if the next big thing is similarly dangling right smack in front of us.
My guess? (I’m fully aware that I may be horribly wrong.)
I’d say it would be the merging of pc/tablet/smartphone applications, where they could be freely developed and adopted like mobile apps today. Imagine garage-made challenges to photoshop or dreamweaver, or more importantly the rapid adoption by millions of people. The line between pc/laptop/tablet/phone will be blurred even more.
The next generation of drop-out billionaires will be these developers. Angry birds will seem like another dotcom company compared with the facebook challenging developers of the future.
Projects for the week:
1) php/mySQL assignment for school :(
2) bootcamp OS X on laptop
3) start eating 3 meals/day instead of 1