Time enough to change

Seconds and decades showed up in my brain last week.

I heard a report early in the week that at 6:59 pm (EST) on December 31, a second will be added to atomic clocks. This ‘leap second’ will account for the fact that the earth is slowing slightly.

I started thinking about seconds. I considered a post about what we could all do with our extra second. What would happen if everyone put their seconds together? Think of  the extra hours someone would have to  get something done before the end of the year.

I laughed. I would spend my extra second writing. Then I would ask you to give up that second and many more to read this silliness. So I didn’t write.

Last Thursday, I started reading about deliberate practice. (See Tim Walker’s collection of deliberate practice resources). This concept is from research into what makes experts experts. What seems more important than talent is intentional, planned, stretching, deliberate practice. Four things stand out right now:

  • It takes at least 10 years to become world class.
  • It takes daily action during that 10 years.
  • The focus of practice is technique more than outcome.
  • You have to commit.

I started thinking this weekend about what I want to be able to do well in 10 years. What do I want to be known for? What do I want to understand then–about myself, about God, about how to live one for the other–that I need to start considering now?

Many of us are looking at the past year, thinking about what we didn’t get done. We are looking at the next year and trying to plan what to do. I’m wondering whether I need to think smaller and larger.

How can I use today’s seconds to be who I want to be in a decade?


14 responses to “Time enough to change

  1. I like the idea of seconds and decades. so often we are told to live in the now or plan our future but not often told to do both.

  2. Phil
    i like how you clarified that then and now idea. Thanks!

  3. I like the idea of thinking ten years ahead – it stretches me to think bigger, but also makes me feel more full of possibility… Maybe it’s because I can envisage all those seconds I could use!

  4. I think we all do this sort of planning.

    When I was a student, at some point, I decided to get a Ph.D. That was a ten year plan. Then getting tenure was another ten-year plan.

    I could try to become a super-great professor, but I am not sure what this means. Getting large grants? Writing hundreds of research papers?

    I prefer day-to-day productivity. It is easier to measure and manage.

  5. Daniel –
    You got your PhD done in ten years? Mine felt like it took…


    I was just talking with a friend in my office about that 10 year idea. I
    said it isn’t about a particular job, necessarily, but about what you want
    to be know as, about what you want to have characterize you.

    You have done a lot, in many contexts. But what is the one question you and
    your discipline can’t fix? Yet? What if you took all the courses you teach
    and the consulting you do and directed it toward that project or question?

    What if I decided that by age 60 (my terrifying ten years out there) I
    wanted to understand how to help a spiritually community grow deeper?

    Having said that, you already are doing this kind of thinking and learning.
    I look at your post about becoming
    it show a great understanding.

    The problem is that many of us aren’t this intentional.


  6. Is the discussion of time and planning – even ten years a bit limiting. I read this recently: “If your life’s work can be completed in your life time, you are thinking too small.” While we may need to set some goals and measure progress in the context of the years of our lives, could we also think beyond those years and be committed to something that outlives us.

  7. I just keep wondering if you’re somehow inside my head. What a scary place that would be for you! Nonetheless, your post is exactly where I’ve been lately. What is the thing that I want to be known for? How does God desire to use me in the days/months/years ahead? And how can I be intentional about getting there?

    I’ve known about practice being an important part of becoming expert at something. The ten-year path was, however, a new idea to me. Thank you for introducing me to some ideas that lead to tangible action.

  8. Nagging challenge, this 10 years stuff.

  9. I do find that I get stuck in mid-sized dreams and moments more than I should. I love your suggestion that the way to bigger things is paved by a series of very small moments. Thinking about living in the seconds reminds me of one of my favorite images: the importance of gathering the crumbs, even the smallest bits of gratitude and hope.

  10. Joanna
    ‘it stretches me to think bigger’ – I love that.

  11. yes Tom, absolutely. I’ve got to be thinking legacy.

    If we stand on the shoulders of giants, then are we building shoulders
    strong enough for others to stand on?

    I know, that should like it could be hubris. But what if I just document
    some stuff? What if I let people in on what is going on inside my head? What
    if I don’t always use the shortcuts on quality but sometimes take the time
    to build the structure strong enough for there to be a second story?

  12. Cheryl. You’ve seen the inside of my brain here and know how scary that is.

    Don’t miss the *deliberate* part of the practice (in addition to the 10
    years). That’s the part that I’ve often missed.

  13. Kristen.

    Think for a moment about where you ended, “the importance of gathering the
    crumbs, even the smallest bits of gratitude and hope.” 10 years of that
    makes you hopeful, contented, helpful. That small practice shifts
    everything. Absolutely everything.


  14. Pingback: outliers and talent and hope and deliberate practice « Levite Chronicles