Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One Hundred Hours

I was thinking about these metrics I've heard that expertise and virtuosity can be basically guaranteed if you put in 10,000 hours into something. It got me to thinking: What could I get done with 100 hours? 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks. Or 1 hour a day for 20 weeks (giving yourself 2 days off a week). What could I really LEARN in that time:

- Could I learn to play guitar well enough to be that guy around the campfire?
- Could I get my piano playing back up to Suzuki Book 4 level?
- Could I get a working knowledge of a language I know nothing about yet (Polish? Italian?)

I think that I could probably pick up just about anything and become workable at it if not particularly graceful: I may be able to strum chords, but not able to do fancy flamenco picking. Maybe be able to converse about the weather but not politics. I know that Pimsleur Method is basically 40 hours of lessons for the full series (assuming each lesson done once). So I could do 90 Pimsleur lessons, and then pick up some additional material...?

I can't shake the feeling that 100 might be sort of magical: A serious commitment of time, but achievable. And an amount of time after which you really could have something to show for it.

I'm thinking about what my 100 hour challenge might be for this summer. What can I start from scratch, and post video updates at each 10 hour window?


May Adventures

I'm still adjusting to how much to blog here, how much to post on Facebook. I can't help but think that Facebook is ephemeral, like voicemails, and that when I'm 90 I'll at least have the extracts from this blog to review. So I'll try to remember to update here more often.

For the past few weeks, Bella has been doing a "biography" project on Albert Einstein: She's been reading, printing pictures, building an information display, and practicing "being in character". Yesterday was her big event: She stood by her station and answered questions as Einstein. Her job was to learn about his childhood and school years, as well as what he was famous for. She also assembled some "artifacts" to represent his interests: She picked a house of cards and a magnetic compass, both of which he played with as a kid. She had a lab coat, the crazy hair, and an insane fake mustache. Her classmates were similarly creative... but I did find it amusing that right across the aisle from my Bella and her frumpy old professor look, another girl was doing 'Shirley Temple" complete with babydoll skirt and ringlets. It was quite a juxtaposition.

In other Bella news: After 3 bikes and 5 years of trying, she finally decided to figure out how this whole "riding a bike" thing works. It started over the weekend, with a neighbor dad deciding to help her with holding the bike steady - maybe there was something about having a new teacher, but it finally clicked. On Monday after school, she raced to the bike and decided to get going again, and that she didn't need any help. And she spent an hour riding up and down the sidewalk. Tuesday after school, she tried again, but didn't have as much luck: She stomped in and said "DAD, when you say "it's just like riding a bike" it's a LIE - I FORGOT how!". But after her stint as Einstein, she begged for another chance before bed, and it clicked again. I think I have a real bike rider here.

Isaac is having some adjustment issues with the end of pre-school and the looming prospect of Kindergarten. He's pretty grumpy, and very in need of being allowed to feel like a little kid. He's asking for shoulder rides again (much to my neck's dismay) and to be pushed on the swing... he's asking for Scooby Doo shows again... But he's also becoming a lot more independent about playing: He's spending a fair amount of time across the street playing with Amelia and Wyatt and they're all getting along great.

His soccer season started last week, and he does not lack for passion: It's amazing to see that even in this entry level (5 year old league) there are some kids who have CLEARLY been playing for a few years and have some pretty developed soccer moves, while Isaac just has speed and interest... but no technique yet. It was frustrating to him to see other kids being better than him and he let a few unsportsman like taunts out (na na boo boo is pretty hardcore). I've tried to let him know that at this stage, we all have different skills, and that what he SHOULD do is watch those kids and learn to do what they do.

May was a sick month for me - I came down with a brutal cold that lingered for 10 days before I finally got wise and got some more antibiotics, which knocked it out pretty well. My ears were plugged up for over two weeks, however, and I did have one trip to Houston that led to tears of pain from the pressure... In the midst of this illness, I had a big proposal for a year long project in St Paul that I had to pull together, plus I had to step in to a gig in Houston for a co-worker who got so sick he had to go on disability (and I have the right skillset to backfill).

It led to a somewhat unfortunate conflict: I had to be in Houston to meet with senior leadership on the same day as I was supposed to present the proposal in St Paul. AND this was on my worst day of the illness. I had Dan, the founder of the company, come in to propose in my stead, but we lost the opportunity, and I'll be forever wondering if things would have been different if I had been able to be there... I've heard from other sources that the gig in St Paul was never ours to win, that another firm was the inside favorite, but I like to believe that once a person gets a bit of Jimmy, they can't say no... I'll try to look at this as a "for the best" sort of thing.

In the meantime, I have started the process of transitioning out of my gig in Minneapolis: While things have been good, there will be a requirement coming up that the project will need someone on site boots on the ground for 40+ hours a week to get some stuff DONE, and I don't have that time to give with my other commitments. So I have started working with them to find a backfill, and we will be keeping me on an advisory retainer so that I can provide guidance and oversight.

This is all leading to my continued soul searching about what I really want to be doing: I've been doing this traveling consultant thing for 3 years now, and it's been exhausting. I've been inside of a lot of hospitals, and have got very jaded about the effectiveness of most IT and administrative organizations. I still love the clinicians and think they're doing great work, but these organizations wrapped around them are just fundamentally sick and it's discouraging to fly into places and see them wasting resources protecting fiefdoms. I just don't know what I want to DO about it. Not yet.