The Decade of 10,000 Hours


I recently returned from spending ten days in the wilderness of Colorado.

I had a once-in-a-lifetime archery tag for a Big Horn Sheep.  I gained a total of 12,585 feet of elevation bushwhacking.  No trails.  Six separate stalks on six different remarkable rams.  Wind. Cold. Beauty. Danger.

Ten days and I returned having harvested some truly great stories, but didn’t kill anything except maybe my pride.  All I have to show for it is a fractured toe, bruises, scrapes and tubs of sweat soaked camo gear.

I had so many close calls.  My first stalk was a two hour and twenty minute 2,600 foot ascent to spend three hours stalking a ram over 300 painful yards, only to finally be betrayed by shifting alpine winds.  I did an epic descent down a rock cliff face, in socks, holding on for dear life.  I launched an arrow at eight yards towards a majestic ram below me, only to hit a branch with my arrow on the release, and watch the arrow sail over his back and the broadhead explode in a display of sparks on the cliff below.

I thought all the stars were aligned.  I endured countless hours of training and preparation:  Hike after hike up Colorado mountains with a backpack filled with books. Hours of shooting my bow, pouring over maps, researching big horn sheep, consulting with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, putting together an army of borrowed gear…

And here I sit, haunted by close calls.

What can I make of this story?

Two ideas are so crucial to the decade of the thirties.

The first is that we are so quick to want to makes sense of our lives, to remove all mystery and know definitively how to interpret our reality.  We worship at the Alter of Clarity and forsake the only Source that can truly give us peace.  What if we separated experience from interpretation? Scriptures says, “Those that belong to God hear what God says.” (John 8).   What if we paused and said, “Father I trust you. I declare that I belong to you and trust to hear your voice. I release any demands for interpretation and make myself open and available to you, to speak in your time about all of this to me.”

Oswald Chambers says

“Lust means ‘I must have it now.'”

Spiritual lust causes me to demand and answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer… whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer we are off track.  The purpose of prayer is that we get a hold of God, not the answer.”

Second is this remarkable idea I have been learning in a book titled Outliers, which I strongly recommend.  It’s called The 10,000 Hour Rule.  It refers to world-class musicians, and a study on the role both natural ability and practice played in their greatness.  The study showed with overwhelming clarity the following:

“The striking thing about Ericson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did.  Nor could they find any ‘grinds,’ people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks.  Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works.  That’s it.  And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else.  They work much, much harder.  The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again the top level.  Even Mozart – the greatest musical prodigy of all time – couldn’t hit his stride until he had his ten thousand hours in.  Practice isn’t the think you do once you’re good.  It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

I want to be a remarkable bow hunter.

And more than that, I want to be a remarkable man.

On the outside of my bow case is a homemade sticker that says,

“Is this a story I want?”  

I’ve learned archery is about harvesting great stories before it is about harvesting animals.  While an interpretation for what (seemingly) went wrong with my sheep hunt still eludes me, one thing I know for sure.  I logged many painful and beautiful miles in the field.  I have the blood, sweat, tears and stories to prove it.  And I am that much closer to my 10,000 hours of “practice”.

So too, is the masculine journey.  The thirties is the decade of discipleship.  It is the decade of 10,000 hours.  As Teddy Roosevelt put it, being in the arena.  It’s a decade of stories and experiences.  It’s the decade of logging the long hard miles of restoration of character.

What story do you want?

Where are you in putting in your 10,000 hour investment to make it a remarkable one?

One day, I believe we will be remarkable.

Note: for more on The 10,000 hour rule and to meet the author of Outliers check out this interview:

An American Life

Reading stories of great men has been a vital source of mentoring and nourishment for my masculine journey.  There are particular stories that stand out and make perfect sense looking back but when lived, looked much more seemingly odd or haphazard.  Stories like Joseph, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan I count among them.  This autobiography is a fascinating story, not only of history but masculinity, sovereignty and God’s way with a man moving ever deeper into the life, walk and calling God has set for him.

The following is the description from Amazon:

Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is a work of major historical importance. Here, in his own words, is the story of his life—public and private—told in a book both frank and compellingly readable.

Few presidents have accomplished more, or been so effective in changing the direction of government in ways that are both fundamental and lasting, than Ronald Reagan. Certainly no president has more dramatically raised the American spirit, or done so much to restore national strength and self-confidence.

Here, then, is a truly American success story—a great and inspiring one. From modest beginnings as the son of a shoe salesman in Tampico, Illinois, Ronald Reagan achieved first a distinguished career in Hollywood and then, as governor of California and as president of the most powerful nation in the world, a career of public service unique in our history.

Ronald Reagan’s account of that rise is told here with all the uncompromising candor, modesty, and wit that made him perhaps the most able communicator ever to occupy the White House, and also with the sense of drama of a gifted natural storyteller.

He tells us, with warmth and pride, of his early years and of the elements that made him, in later life, a leader of such stubborn integrity, courage, and clear-minded optimism. Reading the account of this childhood, we understand how his parents, struggling to make ends meet despite family problems and the rigors of the Depression, shaped his belief in the virtues of American life—the need to help others, the desire to get ahead and to get things done, the deep trust in the basic goodness, values, and sense of justice of the American people—virtues that few presidents have expressed more eloquently than Ronald Reagan.

With absolute authority and a keen eye for the details and the anecdotes that humanize history, Ronald Reagan takes the reader behind the scenes of his extraordinary career, from his first political experiences as president of the Screen Actors Guild (including his first meeting with a beautiful young actress who was later to become Nancy Reagan) to such high points of his presidency as the November 1985 Geneva meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, during which Reagan invited the Soviet leader outside for a breath of fresh air and then took him off for a walk and a man-to-man chat, without aides, that set the course for arms reduction and charted the end of the Cold War.

Here he reveals what went on behind his decision to enter politics and run for the governorship of California, the speech nominating Barry Goldwater that first made Reagan a national political figure, his race for the presidency, his relations with the members of his own cabinet, and his frustrations with Congress.

He gives us the details of the great themes and dramatic crises of his eight years in office, from Lebanon to Grenada, from the struggle to achieve arms control to tax reform, from Iran-Contra to the visits abroad that did so much to reestablish the United States in the eyes of the world as a friendly and peaceful power. His narrative is full of insights, from the unseen dangers of Gorbachev’s first visit to the United States to Reagan’s own personal correspondence with major foreign leaders, as well as his innermost feelings about life in the White House, the assassination attempt, his family—and the enduring love between himself and Mrs. Reagan.

An American Life is a warm, richly detailed, and deeply human book, a brilliant self-portrait, a significant work of history.

Wild at Heart

The most formative and shaping book I have ever read.  Recover the heart that God has set within us, as men.

The following is the description from Amazon:

Every man was once a boy.  And every little has dreams, big dreams,  dreams of being the hero, of beating the bad guys, of doing daring feats and rescuing the damsel in distress. Every little girl has dreams, too: of being rescued by her prince and swept up into a great adventure, knowing that she is the beauty.

But what happens to those dreams when we grow up? Walk into most churches, have a look around, and ask yourself: What is a Christian man?  Without listening to what is said, look at what you find there. Most Christian men are . . . bored.

John Eldredge revises and updates his best-selling, renowned Christian classic, Wild at Heart, and in it invites men to recover their masculine heart, defined in the image of a passionate God. And he invites women to discover the secret of a man’s soul and to delight in the strength and wildness men were created to offer.

The Decade of Sonship

“If anything good is going to happen, it’s up to me.”

“Why is life so damn hard?”

“Why does it feel like life is always up to me?”

“I feel all alone.”

How often have these sentences floated through your mind?  If you’re like the average man, these sentences are so painfully familiar you have come to accept them as normal.  So many of these “issues” in our life are merely symptoms of living in the deep and false reality of feeling fatherless.

The anger that seems to explode over small issues.

The pull to give our best to our work, only to bring the scraps to our wives and children.

The resignation.

…All, conditions of Fatherlessness.

You see, Adam’s story is every man’s story.  God created a world, a Kingdom, in which we were designed to flourish as sons of a loving, generous and intimate Father.  You don’t have to look far to see that we live east of Eden in these times.

Here is the dilemma.  We are fiercely committed to making life work on our own terms.  But God, the Father, has rigged the world so that we can’t find life apart from Him.

What would it look like to become a son?  To receive a spirit of sonship whereby we could literally cry out Abba Father, from a sincere and full heart (Romans 8).

George MacDonald brilliantly stated,

“The hardest, gladdest thing in the world is to cry Father! from a full heart…the refusal to look up to God as our father is the one central wrong in the whole human affair; the inability, the one central misery…since we are the sons of God.” 

MacDonald continues,

“we must become the sons of God.”

Take 10 minutes for your heart today.  Watch the trailer from Robin Hood.  Ask yourself, what would it be like to walk in a spirit of sonship?  What would it look like to believe that your Father is a great man.  That He has a dream of a Kingdom.  And that you are your Father’s son?

Robin Hood Trailer

And watch this profound clip of Derek Redmond.  A world champion athlete who smashed the British record at age 19 in the 400m but continued to fall short of ever winning an Olympic medal.  In the ’88 Olympics he withdrew due to injury.  Derek and his father Jim were inseparable, so they continued fighting, training, hoping for an Olympic medal.  This clip is from the ’92 Olympics in Barcelona, and this was their year.  This was Derek’s race.  What would it be like to believe in the Father’s relentless love?  To live as a son, in His strength, His provision, His protection, His affection…over you?

Derek Redmond Olympic Race Clip

“Since we are the sons of God, we must become the sons of God.”

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:14-16)

Take a risk.  Begin every day for a year with this prayer.  “Father I choose to believe I am your son. I receive a spirit of sonship and I ask for you to Father me today.”