Othismos and the fine structure of mastery

As usual I’m tussling with the question: Why are some engineers just so much more effective than everyone else?; my current line of thinking being provoked by a series of books by Steven Pressfield.

First, let’s take with a pinch of salt the current flavor-of-day idea that “10,000 hours of deliberate practice” is both necessary and sufficient to achieve “world class performance”. Even K. Anders Ericsson, one of the academics involved in the research upon which that idea tries to sit, has gone to the length of writing a rebuttal article (MS Word), to try to tone down some of the hype. But let’s at least consider, for argument’s sake, the following as unobjectionable.

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An antidote to passion

Call me a cynical old git, but the whole “find your passion” thing has worn very thin on me over the past few years. It’s not that I think loving what you do and doing it with energy is inherently bad, but it seems to me that once you start focusing on that — on “my passion” — you have to take your focus off the thing you are doing and, just as (if not more) problematic, off the person for whom you are doing  it. Seeking your passion seems reminiscent of “the pursuit of happiness”; a pretty sure way of *not* finding it (or, at least, of discovering that when you do find it, it wasn’t really what you were looking for). Continue reading