D I A R Y
of a

P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.




Monday, March 19, 2007

The Price of Greatness: 10 years, One Million Balls

How many balls do you have to shoot
before you get really good at this game?

I got interested in this question recently
while talking with a team member
who is just starting down the long and painful road
to excellence in pool.

She was feeling kinda glum after losing her match,
and I was trying to console her with the fact
that, with practice, she will absolutely get better.

And then, I blurted out the not-so-consoling fact
that it probably only takes hitting a million balls
before she will get really, really good at the game.

Of course, I had no idea what the real number is.
I was just winging it.
Who counts every ball they hit? Not me!
However, I do know that you gotta hit a lotta balls.

Over the next few days,
the question of just how many balls
kept running through my mind.
So I put the question to one of this blog's readers.
He's a techie sort of guy,
and he just recently achieved
the highest 9-ball skill level (APA).

He did some calculating and came up with
the fact that he has probably hit 700,000 balls
over 10 years that he's been playing the game.

Well, that's pretty darn close to a million.
And maybe it would take another 300,000 shots
to achieve touring pro level,
if he had the intention of doing such a thing.

These numbers seem to be in the ball park
with another study on the topic of
what it takes to master ANY endavor.

I wrote about this study in another blog I write
The Art and Science of Success in Business.

Here is the relevant entry from that blog:

Practice, Perseverance, Passion

What does it take to be Great?
Is there such a thing as a "natural"?

The answers are here
in a recent story in Fortune Magazine.

The bottom line is that all exceptional results
require lots of Practice, about 10 years of it
according to the story.
And that's focused practice,
not just putting in time.

Here's their System for Practice:

1. Approach each critical task with an explicit goal of getting much better at it.

2. As you do the task, focus on what's happening and why you're doing it the way you are.

3. After the task, get feedback on your performance from multiple sources. Make changes in your behavior as necessary.

4. Continually build mental models of your situation - your industry, your company, your career. Enlarge the models to encompass more factors.

5. Do those steps regularly, not sporadically. Occasional practice does not work.

(Notice the feedback loop,
which is an essential ingredient for any System
if it is to react to the constantly changing environment.)




On this same topic,
Calvin Coolidge said it perfectly:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not;
nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not;
unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not;
the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."




Of course, if you have a Passion for what you do,
Practice and Perseverance come naturally.

Consider this well...



So, if you practice with passion for about 10 years,
you will probably hit a million balls,
and you will be great.
Absolutely.

(blog top)


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