One or two days ago, I did that thing you’re never supposed to do: I shared an infographic on my Facebook wall without actually double-checking the sources and the veracity of the information.
You can read all about it here. About the infographic, I mean, not the Facebook part of things. The Facebook faux pas is a tale as old as time, as the sages say.
At the very bottom of the post is a copy of the original infographic with what turned out to be incorrect (or at least, unverifiable) stats about the cultural decline of reading. Once he found that the original stats — which were really super shocking (80% of households haven’t bought a book in the last year, stuff like that) — were unverified, the infographic creator did a v.2 that brought in some different statistics that could be verified.
The funny-ironic thing, as far as I was concerned, is the way I would have been equally happy to post the v.2 “corrected” info graphic rather than the more dramatic/problematic v.1. Because what had most caught my eye was a quote that stayed intact between v.1 and v.2, in large part because it was so obviously aspirational rather than scientific: “If you read one hour per day in your chosen field, you will be an international expert in 7 years.”
The concept is attributed to motivational speaker Earl Nightingale on personal development/coaching to success sites like here, or most clearly presented by author and success coach Brian Tracy here:
Earl Nightingale said many years ago that one hour per day of study in your chosen field was all it takes. One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.
I’ve been chewing over that notion ever since I saw the quote.
I talk now and again about the fields of public education and educational reform. It’s the field I’ve been working in for a few years now, but I still only feel as if I know the tiniest bit about it. So the quote on the infographic started me thinking: what could I accomplish if I followed through on my often-stated desire to become more of an expert in my field? If I made a more serious commitment to reading/learning more about education? Could I make the time for regular self-study, and, if so, how might that benefit my work and my life?
Now, the truth is that I already have lots of daily practices going on. The morning journal-writing. Blogging here on JALC. Coursera classes. Regular commitment to ongoing household responsibilities like dishes and laundry and such. So I found myself of two minds as I considered this new daily practice. On the one hand, I found it a little bit intimidating. Can I really take another thing on?
On the other hand, I find Nightingale’s concept really inspiring in its reminder that small, sustained effort can add up in really significant ways. Yes, in many ways, this is a familiar and often-stated concept. After all, isn’t there a proverb about the thousand-mile journey beginning with one small step? But sometimes it is really impactful for me when a new phrasing or formulation allows me to see a familiar-ish concept in a new way. Like when I read a book, some years ago, spring-boarding off the proverb to point out that the author’s small steps had, without her really noticing, carried her across the universe.* The Nightingale quote now, like de Grandis some years ago, helps shift my attention away from the sense of a slow, endless slog — 1,000 miles times 5,280 feet/mile, divided by 2.5 feet/step** — towards the reminder of what can be accomplished with sustained effort.
And yeah, I have a fair number of daily practices already. But I also spend enough time doing the TV/Facebook zombie thing that the hours could almost add up to being their own part-time job. Besides, the activities in question here (reading and thinking) are things that come to me as naturally as breathing. And even if an hour each day feels a bit like a stretch, I know that smaller pieces of effort can also add up:
As I’ve said before, we overestimate what we can do in a week, and underestimate what we can do in a year. But if you spend 15 minutes a week reading your industry journal and it takes you four weeks to read it, is that a bad thing? Of course not- it probably only comes once a month anyway!
So, in concert with this fellow, I’ve started spending 15 minutes each night reading a bit about education, starting with another book I borrowed from the company “library.”
As with so much else in my life, I imagine this to be a “progress, not perfection” kind of movement. I imagine there will be times when my daily practices need to be triaged and weighed against one another. Last night, for example, after our drive up to the lake, I found myself prioritizing education reading and early bedtime over JALC post. (Heck, we have baseball tickets and I won’t be able to post tonight, either, so a midday Saturday post kinda works better anyhow.)
Some nights I can imagine prioritizing JALC over ed-reading,and some nights I can imagine prioritizing both of those activities over sleep. Day by day, I’ll work it out. Heck, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to stick with JALC when I resurrected it, and yet here we are 5 months later. (Which is, by the way, 4 months longer than JALC’s first-phase lifespan. Go figure.)
Step by enjoyable step, around the world and back again.
* The book in question is currently not available to me, so I can’t confirm the precise quote. (After the Facebook error, I feel as if I should be extra-aware about such things as the accuracy of my citations and the credibility of those sources I quote.)
** Why doesn’t my keyboard have a division sign? Ah, the indignities of aging, when one’s native symbol set slowly gets displaced by the new generation’s symbology…
Norman Rockwell: http://mote-historie.tumblr.com/post/76317464830/now-son-do-you-know-what-you-did-wrong-yes-sir
The journey begins: http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/01/a-journey-of-a-thousand-miles-blah-blah-blah.html