Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Getting it right

How many times does it take to get something right?

Well, I guess that's a trick question, because we can pretty much always improve.

Last night, I started my go karting league (the kind that makes you wear a helmet and goes 40 mph, not like the ones at your local mini-golf course). By the end of the night, each person had raced 100 laps on the same track.

Although it takes a mere 20 seconds to complete, there are so many subtle ways to shave off a few hundreds of a second here, maybe even a tenth of a second there. It's crazy to step back and realize how excited you can get over 2 hundredths of a second. I can't think of any other place in my life where 1/50th of a second is even noticed.

Still, throughout the night, lap times kept improving. 30 laps was not enough time, neither was 70, or 100. By the end of the season, I will probably have driven 400 laps around the same 20 second course. Will I have mastered it? Not even close.

Maybe that's just like life. I'll make up a term here, we'll call it "levels of mastery". When I've gone in on the weekends to just drive a race or two with random people, I usually win. I thought I was pretty good. Now, I'm with a whole new set of people, and everyone knows what they're doing. Now, I have to pay attention to things I never did before. The tiniest details make all the difference.

Maybe there's something you want to be better at in life, and once you get there, you realize that you're now better than say 90% of everyone else. But to start moving up through that next 10%, you need to be aware of, and master a whole set of new problems that you didn't even realize was there. If you happen to make it to the top 10% of that group, you're going to need to figure out what else there is if you want to get past that next group of people.

Getting to the top 1% is not easy. But, like everything, it's really just a series of small steps. And you have to really want it.

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