The four stages of becoming an expert
"Find what you love and you won't work another day in your life."
I love this idea because it lets you dream big about the things you could do, but it’s full of dangers because it doesn’t mention an important detail… between the excitement of starting and the eventual loving, there’s a lot of miserable slogging.
There are 4 distinct stages in becoming an expert:
The excitement of the new
The desert of mediocrity
Emergence into proficiency
The joy of honing your craft
In the early days of doing something new, the fuel is the excitement. That runs out pretty quickly and you’re left in a seemingly endless desert of mediocrity. This stage is characterized by sucking compared to all your peers, constant starting and stopping to figure out something you didn’t even know you didn’t know, and little to no money. If you somehow persist the 10,000 hrs it takes to emerge from the desert, you’re rewarded with a feeling of deep satisfaction of being proficient in your craft. This third stage is also where the “Find what you love” quote actually becomes true. And the final stage is the joyful, steady honing of your craft that goes on forever more.
When most people try something new, they last a short distance into the desert of mediocrity before giving up, because like any desert, it’s no fun and there’s no end in sight. The trick to getting through it, is finding something other than excitement and satisfaction (the hallmarks of Stage 1) to keep you going.