Remember: Winning Isn’t Normal

Winning Isn’t Normal is a great blog post by Jason Shen about just how much goes into being good at something. Particularly great is this quote:

Remember one thing… winning isn’t normal. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with winning. It just isn’t the norm. It is highly unusual … So it requires unusual action. In order to win, you must do extraordinary things.

It seems too many people forget that, and I’m certain I’m no exception to that. Putting intelligence and innate gifts aside (they only get you so far), being good at something to the point of earning any respect takes an incredible amount of effort, sacrifice and time. The old standard for being viewed as an expert was 10,000 hours of experience or 10 years. I suspect in many modern-day professions that’s way below standards.

It’s way too easy to look at the end results and overlook what goes into something. From that 2 minute Olympic performance to the 5 minute medical diagnosis etc. Even from a purely academic standpoint we rarely realize what goes into anything other than a law or medical degree, and even there most people don’t get the late nights and dragging yourself through hell it takes. Most just think about sitting through the Bar Exam and MCAT’s like another SAT and not the prep that goes into it.

Intelligence And Staying Up Late

London School of Economics and Political Science research as summarized by the Winnipeg Free Press:

People with higher IQs are more apt to be nocturnal night-owls. Those with lower IQs tend to restrict their activities primarily to daytime.

Of course it’s important to note correlation does not imply causation. That said, lots of genius work does happen between 10 PM and 4 AM. There are countless stories of overnight success and innovation. I can’t recall many stories of 9 AM eureka moments unless they were the conclusion of overnight work.