The Axiom — Part 2
So the axiom we are discussing is: “It takes ten years to master any skill.” Some time ago I asserted that I thought this axiom was true to a family member of mine. He is a fairly young man (late 30s, early 40s), quite successful in his career, and very ambitious. He strongly disagreed with me. Had I been in my career at age 38 or 40 where he is now, I probably would have denied the veracity of this axiom myself. When we are young or even nearing middle age, a ten year span of time is difficult to wrap our heads around, especially when we’re talking about how long it might take to achieve a single goal. And, here in the U.S., we live in an “instant gratification” society so waiting for anything is contemptible to most of us. Working and waiting for something for ten years would seem like a waste of eight or nine years to the typical American, and especially to the younger set.
But once you reach age 50, ten years achieves a more realistic perspective. Because is seems that only last summer you were twenty, sexy, and had a full head of hair. And now you are scratching your bald head and wondering where the last thirty years have gone. Ten years, you realize, is not a long time. If fact, it starts to feel like it isn’t enough time to achieve anything of significance—like mastering a complex skill. If you don’t believe me consider this: How long would it take for you (having never touched a cello before) to become a member of the cello section of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony? The Frankfurt Radio Symphony, by the way, I think is one of the best in the world! And also, how much work would it take? When we think about it this way, ten years seems pretty short.
“But, Dale,” you say, “I’ve been writing English (or fill in your preferred language here) since I was six! So it couldn’t possibly take me another ten years to learn how to write a novel!” Yes, one would think, right? But it turns out that writing a good novel is more like playing the lead cello part for Kol Nidrei by composer, Max Bruch, than sawing through Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the middle school talent show. When I said, I’ve been writing since I was six, it reminded me of a humorous story (true story) I’d like to share with you.
There was woman I knew who seemed always to have had a stormy relationship with her mother. At age six, after one such stormy encounter with mom wherein the little girl got banished to her room for a time out, the angry little one found a piece of brown school paper on which she was supposed to practice printing her ABCs. And in her fury, she took in hand the lined paper and a red crayon and wrote: “I HAT MOM. I HAT MOM. I HAT MOM.”
Well, there is still more to say about the ten-year axiom but I will save it for tomorrow. In the meantime, please try not to HAT anyone and especially not your mother or your writing. Until then—