Well, what next?
Let me first take you back a few years to my IIT preparation days (for the uninitiated, the entrance exam to IIT or Indian Institutes of Technology, is one of the toughest university entrance exams in the world.) The following incident happened when I was embarking on the IIT preparation journey. I was full of enthusiasm and hope, with glorious dreams of acing the exams (and subsequent world domination!). On one fateful day, I was sharing my noble aspirations with my Physics teacher, Prof. N Mukherjee. Prof. Mukherjee, all wise and experienced in the ways of the world, had seen many dreamy eyed students like me have their dreams shattered. To give me a better sense of reality, he cautioned me about the ominous path ahead:
Bhoot-er moto kaaj korte hobe!“,
(which literally translates into “You have to work like a zombie.”)
And I later found that what he said was true. Those of us who prepared for IIT-s did resemble ghosts in more than one fashion. We were awake at odd hours of the night. Food, drink, and other mortal pleasures became irrelevant to us. We were not seen regularly at social occasions — in a sense, we did become extraneous to the physical world.
Now, you might begin to wonder what all this stuff about IIT preparation has to do with the topic of this book, the pursuit of an unconventional career. Well, it turns out there is one underlying principle that ties both these endeavors.
And that, my dear friend, is the following:
You have to work hard. Bad-ass hard.
- Tiger Woods started playing golf when he was a child. By the time he grew up and started competing professionally, he had amassed more practice hours than most of his competitors.
- Warren Buffett became the richest man in the world by speculating about stock prices. He was known to spend hours poring over business reports in newspapers and magazines in order to identify trends and profit opportunities.
- Closer home, Ashwin Sanghi, a serial best-selling author, maintains a 40 hour business managing his family’s multi-crore business, and yet manages a four hour writing session from 6 am – 10 am every day! He even works full-time on Saturday and Sunday on his writing.
I guess you get the picture by now. There is no substitute for hard work. In fact, there is research that claims that in order to be successful in an area, a person has to spend, on an average, about 10,000 hours doing that work.
If the 10,000 hour number did not make much of an impression on you, let me show you the following calculation:
If you work eight hours every day (Monday to Friday) in pursuit of your unconventional career, you end up working 40 hours per week. There are 52 working weeks each year, so you clock 52*40 = 2080 hours per year. This means that you will take 10,000/2080 ~= 4.8 years to get really good at something.
At first glance (or basically at any n-th glance), this might seem like a daunting task. But there is a flip side to this. The 10,000 hour rule also means that, if you spend sufficient time honing your skill at something, you WILL improve. With more and more practise, you WILL get better. By dint of sheer hard work, you WILL step out of the average zone, and slowly transition into the rarified atmosphere of the ‘outlier‘.
Hey, what about creativity?
For those unconvinced souls among you, I bet you are thinking,
Well, creativity is important. But creativity, by itself, is:
“nada, nil, zilch, zero, nothing”!
Only hard work can make the imaginative wisp, that is creativity, into tangible reality.
In reality, there are too many creative people inhabiting the earth right now. Fortunately, not all of those people will take it upon themselves to pick up one of their creative passions and hone it to perfection.
The homo-sapien analogy
Visualize the following two scenarios:
- Visualize a stone-worker in prehistoric times sharpening his tool on a sharpening wheel over hours and hours. Working towards your unconventional career is like that — solitary, boring at times, and an awesome test of your perseverance.
- Now fast forward to today’s age, and imagine someone ordering a sharp knife on Amazon through a few mouse-clicks (“Hey, I can do ‘Amazon1-Click Ordering’ too!”).
Most creative people prefer the Amazon 1-click option. They never put in the grueling hard work that it takes to go from average to above average. (And be thankful for that. You would be royally screwed if all the creative people on earth started working equally hard!)
Arre Bhai, kaise ye hard work? (Dude, hard work but how?)
So now that we are all on the same page (literally), we now come to the million dollar question — how do you go about doing all this hard work? When there are a thousand such cares knocking at the doors of your physical and mental capability, how do you find time for working on your unconventional career?
These two simple words form such an important and all encompassing solution, that I had to devote another entire chapter to this. Read on… intrepid unconventional traveler…