People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

Posted by Pete Loughlin in Insights 24 Aug 2015

I want to preface this blog post with a few words about being a blogger, the risks you take, the personal anguish and the enormous satisfaction it brings when people say kind things. But that doesn’t always happen. There are trolls and there are idiots out there.

When we use social media – whether that’s facebook to tell people what an ideal life you live or  twitter for keeping followers up to date on what you ate for breakfast – we stick our necks out. Even for serious business use like Xing and linkedin, we expose ourselves to the world. People get to see what we want them to see – sometimes even a glimpse of our true self.

I can understand why some people are reluctant to use social media. Perhaps they have skeletons in the closet or enemies that they fear will attack them. So it’s quite brave to go all out and make a career of of social media. The world gets to see all of you – warts and all. If you make a mistake and everyone gets to know about it and it’s out there forever, amplified by tweets retweets and “likes”. Blogging professionally is like getting up in front of an audience and performing. The worst pain I can imagine is the pain a standup comic must feel when they die on stage. The greatest thrill is when you’re well received.

I’ve taken some criticism in the past – not much thankfully. Most readers are kind and respectful. But I know I can’t please everyone and I reassure myself with words that I think are Ricky Gervais’ – “you know you’re getting something right when you get hate mail”. I also reassure myself that – like the drunken heckler in the audience – the critic shows themselves up to be ignorant and foolish.

This is why I’m very hesitant to be critical of other bloggers not just because they deserve credit for sticking their necks out but because it is too easy to be critical and of course, what comes around goes around.

It is said it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. It takes a concert violinist 10,000 hours to learn to be great. I feel that this statistic trivializes the effort involved in becoming an expert. If you practiced 4 hours a day, 5 days per week, it would take 10 years to accomplish your 10,000 hours. That’s 5 full hours every weekday consistently for 10 years. That is not trivial.

Is there such a thing as a natural talent for something? I’m sure there is but what I think might be more important is a natural enthusiasm for something. To put the hours in requires a passion – a burning desire to succeed. Without a passion for something, it would be impossible to sustain the levels of effort required to put the 10,000 hours in.

Site LogoSo when someone is good at what they do, do we assume that they must have a natural skill or have they put the hours in? Or both? I think it is a mixture but passion is certainly a prerequisite. Someone who is passionate will always succeed. They will make it happen.

So how is it that some people appear to be great at what they do without, apparently, having served their time, not having followed a traditional route to become great?

Some of the greatest artists are naïve – lacking formal training. But they’ve put the hours in. Some people find their singing talent when they first get up at karaoke. But that just shows how singing in the shower can pay off.

But what if you’ve put the hours in, you’ve followed the traditional path and you still suck at what you do? And then you see someone else who has not followed the traditional path and they’re great at what they do?

You could be bitter. You could call them out as fake or lucky. But you’d be a fool. The fact is, if someone is great at what they do then they’re great. They have served their time – just not in the same class as you – and their passion has pushed them. If you’re time-served but mediocre, perhaps you’ve not had the passion. Or perhaps you’ve just deluded yourself that because you turned up for school day after day you were learning. Maybe you spent your time at school sitting in judgment on others instead of studying. But whatever the reason for your failings, calling out others for being great when you feel they don’t deserve it is just plain stupid.

On the internet, we all live in glass houses. It’s not a good idea to throw stones.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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