John Paul Newport writes the "Golf Journal" for the Wall Street Journal. His insightful understanding of golf was never as evident as in his article "Mastery, Just 10,000 Hours Away," in the March 14/15, 2009 edition. Most golfers understand that golf is a sport with an uncanny ability to reflect life, including the highs of an occasional imitation of genius, and the lows of humbling mental or physical mistakes. Although Newport’s article is specific to golf, his revelations may be applied to any human endeavor. The central theory of his revelation is embodied in the first paragraph of the article: "Golf’s grand illusion is that, secretly, we’re a lot better than our scores would indicate. All we need is a little more practice and a few more rounds under our belt to get there. But who has the time?"

The key caveat is, “a little more practice.” Who has not entertained a conviction that highly successful people embody a natural ability or special attribute that has led to their success? Wasn’t Mozart a boy genius, wasn’t it obvious that Michael Jordan would ultimately become “MICHAEL” or merely “MJ,” aren’t Warren Buffet, Tiger Woods, and Stephen Spielberg geniuses in their field of endeavor. You would think so, based on their achievements. However, recent studies conclude that “talent” is not the secret ingredient to super-high levels of achievement. We may be either relieved or disappointed to know that super achievers are pretty much the same as anyone with one basic difference. They work harder and smarter than the rest of us.

Education is certainly a key to any endeavor. How we get the needed education to excel at any endeavor is crucial. Many golfers think that more rounds, or more practice will make them a much better golfer. Unfortunately, that is only part of the education. Add lessons from a qualified professional, goal oriented, disciplined practice, and anyone can improve their golf game. Certainly there are physical and mental attributes that will also enhance or impede someone from becoming an exceptional golfer, but even these issues can be compensated for with 10,000 hours of smart practice. To put 10,000 hours into perspective, you need to know there are 8,640 hours in a year. If you only spend 25 percent of your time, or six hours a day, practicing to become really good at some endeavor, you may want to start working at it as soon as possible. While you are thinking of how tedious that six hours may become, you had better think about what you will have to sacrifice to make those six hours available. Then you might want to consider who, because of their knowledge or expertise, can make your time well spent, and the cost of that input. You alone will need to consider whether the effort required is worth the reward.

As a young man, I attended a Cincinnati Reds baseball game with my dad and sat near left field where the pitchers warmed up by tossing balls to each other. Clay Carrol, a star reliever for the Reds with exceptional control, would challenge other pitchers to throw a baseball through a small hole in the scoreboard, which towered high above the field. Seldom, if ever, did another pitcher ever throw a ball through the hole. Clay would do it consistently. Most of his peers thought he was a genius. Today, I understand it wasn’t luck, or genius, it was many hours of smart practice. Was it worth it? Are you kidding? For years, most National League batters thought Clay Carrol was a genius and it gave him the edge to become a winning pitcher in the big leagues.

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