Thursday, January 15, 2009

10,000 Hours

What do the Beatles, Bill Gates, Mozart and Peggy Flynn have in common?

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, The Story of Success.

The dictionary definition of outlier is “something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.” (pg. 3) The book jacket describes outliers as “those people whose achievements fall outside normal expectations.”

Caregivers are outliers. We fit both the definition and description. The main or related body is the medical system that sets normal expectations for care delivery. Caregivers’ achievements definitely fall outside those normal expectations.

No wonder we feel invisible much of the time!

I have often felt like an outsider (more tolerated than welcome) in doctors’ offices and during home hospice visits. Caregivers are often made to feel like an outsider in many subtle and not so subtle ways---hard on the self-esteem and especially the morale.

From now on I intend to see myself as an outlier.

What has all this to do with the Beatles et al? The author makes that point that hard work is one of the major factors in success---practice, practice, practice---whether it is Bill Gates at the computer, the Beatles performing in Hamburg for hours each day, or Mozart composing for years---10,000 hours devoted to perfecting one’s skill.

It dawned on me that my caregiving work, especially in the HIV epidemic in San Francisco (1990-2004), gave me the opportunity to put in those 10,000 hours. Practice. Practice. Practice.

According to Mr. Gladwell “success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed…Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities---and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.” (pg. 267)

I am so grateful to everyone who gave me the opportunity to care for them!

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