About muscle memory and luck

Admiration and jealousy

We admire people who appear to be able to perform certain feats as if with no considerable effort. And where there is admiration, there is often jealousy. We tend to get jealous of people whose life is apparently without effort.

We look at these people, and we compare their baseline competenties to our own. We feel we are similar, and often even better than they are. We are more intelligent, we have more strength, we have more talent … yet they have, and we have not. It is not fair.

It is not about fairness

The point is that fairness has little to do with it. Because what we often fail to see is what went before. The entire evolution these people went through. The countless hours of effort, of failure, of doing it again, and again, and again. The hardship of the apprentice.The difference between them and us is often that they have done the work.

The fact that there are so few of them is not by definition an issue of scarcity of opportunity. It is more a witness to the fact that few of us have it in us to actually do the effort. We crave the results but are afraid of the pain.

Almost everyone you admire has done the work

Ascribing Picasso’s success as just luck is a failure to understand the entire evolution of Picasso as a painter. Einstein did not just happen to discover the theory of relativity. It was not just something someone had left lying around.

We fail to recognize the effort that went before. Before a dancer can intuitively dance a piece, and put his or her heart into it, it takes weeks, months and years of diligent practice, in front of a mirror, with only few people seeing it. It takes getting up at ungodly hours of the morning, working, sweating, for little to no direct payback.

It’s about the journey

Which brings us to another point. Few of these “gifted” people do it for the payback. Just as stated in this excellent IBM Linux commercial of 2003, which still sends shivers down my spine, “there is not much glory in poetry, only achievement.” And that goes for pretty much anything. These people do it for the achievement, out of love for the game, or love for the journey.

GTD has never been about the shortcut

Which brings us to GTD. I truly believe GTD is more about diligent practice, about the creation of muscle memory of dealing with the myriad of things that get thrown our way, with stuff, in order to make it look easy. GTD is a system, and approach, which allows us to lead a better life.

But whether you use GTD or not, you should never forget that there are no shortcuts. Not really. There are practices which help you instill a commitment to a certain activity with no direct or visible payback. But there are no shortcuts.

Getting good at life

You want to get good at your life? Practice and perform at the same time. You do know what that is called, right? I believe it is called living.