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There is considerable disagreement about Malcolm Gladwell’s rule that it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to become a world-class person in any field. Brooke N. Macnamara, psychologist at Princeton University, found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. It would appear that the more routine the basics of a field are the more amenable that skill is to practice. However, a complex social skill, such as practicing a profession, seems to be more dependent upon other personal qualities.

I bring this subject up because I am not particularly good at anything. I did do extremely well in my early 20s as a pilot in the USAF in everything except “officer effectiveness”. That was basically how good an Air Force officer my immediate superiors thought I was, and on that scale I rated at the bottom. Even with that extremely low rating I still graduated sixth in my class of about a hundred. Looking back on that whole experience I think I was disliked because I did better on every objective test than everyone else, including my instructors.

In high school, college, Air Force, grad school, and beyond I spent most of my time, study and work time included, in coffee shop settings. Basically, I like to talk to people, especially smart people, about almost anything, no not almost, about everything, at least everything that relates to our true human condition.

When asked what my profession is, I generally say, coffee-shop raconteur. TheFreeDictionary defines that as, One who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit. Well, the point of this blog is that after vastly more than 10,000 hours of conversation… Let me estimate, 3 hours per day times seventy years would give a minimum of 365×70 = 25,550 days x 3 hours per day = 76,650 hours of conversation. Probably at least double that because the fifty years I spent in Berkeley I typically would show up at the Med at 6PM and often stay till 12. Of course there would be lots of talking before 6.

My question would be, “Did all of that conversation, with intelligent, and sometimes famous people, improve my raconteur skills?” Is there any way of identifying an improvement in such an amorphous subject? I have discovered that here in Bend, Oregon, a recreational/retirement community, my predilections for conversation tend to bore people, although I do have some notable exceptions, and generally people here are much more civil.

Part of my motivation for exploring this subject was, how do I find and encourage people to do something spectacular, myself included? We do have many world-class athletes here, and I know a few of them, but they have dedicated so much of their mental energy to cultivating those skills they left the subjects that I pursue mostly unexplored.

The only 10,000 hour subject that I have to build upon is BS, so I will struggle on with BS.

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