Prepare, Practice, Persist

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In the style of Chris Brogan’s three-word “resolutions,” I spent a brief period of time summing up my three-word attitude for the new year of 2012. Not to be confused necessarily with a set of goals, these words are merely all-encompassing ideas and mindsets that will help achieve my own personal definition of success this year.

I’ve finished the first draft of my first novel, The Golden Crystal, and in the interest of literary alliteration, I’ve chosen three words that start with the letter “P” (cute, isn’t it?). I anticipate that my year will be filled with all three of these words, in differing amounts and in places I’ve yet to discover. As my goals and definition of success, at least what it means to me and my family this year, changes along the way, I’ve focused on three words that I believe will be a continuing point of focus for me.

Prepare

Finishing a book (or work of any significant length) would absolutely have not been possible without some sort of preparation. My workflow, habits, and personal motivation create a difficult environment for me when I don’t prepare well enough in advance. One succinct way to put it: if it doesn’t get written down, it doesn’t happen.

So, therefore, my vow will be to at least write down my goals, track them along the way, and measure the successes and failures as I go forth. As the next phase of writing a novel—the editing and re-writing phase—is upon me, I will seriously need the stringent and focused guidelines of written goals and a prepared plan to keep me to the schedule.

Practice

Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers that “expert” status is reached in most fields of study after 10,000 hours of practice. Using case studies like The Beatles, Bill Gates, professional musicians, and others, he makes a strong case that active, focused learning for 10,000 hours is the “magic number” of reaching a point of absolute expertise.

10,000 hours is a lot of hours, by the way. A typical American workweek of 40 hours, 50 weeks a year, would warrant 2,000 hours of “practice” in a full-time job. That’s if it’s spent actually “practicing” the work—not the administrative tasks, getting to and from work, and other non-related activities that are necessary to any job.

My goal, then, is to focus a portion of my non-working hours on practice: writing, music, blogging, etc. I don’t expect to get anywhere near 2,000 hours in any of these areas, but intentional focus and practice is something I can do daily—building positive habits for the future. Maybe 1,000 hours of writing this year is a possibility, though—meaning that in 10 years, I would be on track to becoming an “expert” writer.

Persist

2011 brought many blessings to my life—a great church job, a pseudo-finished novel, growth in my career, and oh yeah—my amazing wife! I hope and pray that 2012 will bring with it many more and continued blessings, though I know there will be down periods as well.

Through these periods of struggle and strife, my keyword will be persistence—I will persist in prayer, in patience, and in peace (sorry to overuse the alliteration), and I will be persistent in my efforts to provide for my new family.

Not to be relegated solely to the unfortunate periods, I intend to be persistent as well in the way I build positive momentum. Blogging regularly has always been a struggle for me, though every time I’ve stuck to a schedule for writing and posting, the benefits have far outweighed the time and effort spent. In the same vein, I’ve been able to finish a 110,000-word draft of the novel only by sticking to a regimented “try-to-write-every-day” approach. Persistence is a solid description for the how part of goal-fulfillment for me.

I’m not the type of person to set “goal-type resolutions” for myself—I guess the popularity of “losing 20 pounds,” “joining a gym,” and “starting a blog”-type of stuff that people come up with has lost its novelty to me. I’ve found that the best time to start something is either yesterday or today. Dieting doesn’t work, but changing a lifestyle does. Setting resolutions so often is a catalyst for failure—leading to a loss of motivation, lack of interest, and a “bah-humbug” attitude.

Instead, I opt for resolutions that are at once vague as well as actionable. Vague and undefined in a sense of specificity, yet actionable in that I can actually measure the results. Preparation, Practice, and Persistence can be applied to pretty much anything I will engage in during 2012, and yet I can measure how well I’m living up my three-word resolution the entire time.

Nick ThackerPrepare, Practice, Persist