Depressed due to a lack of accomplishments?

I happened to stumble upon the following, and thought I’d share, since I know quite a many people who get depressed about not being really, really good at anything:

The “ten-year rule” for genius, validated across fields ranging from math to music to competitive tennis, states that no one achieves outstanding performance in any field without at least ten years of effort. [Hayes, J. R. 1981. The complete problem solver. Philadelphia: Franklin Institute Press.] Mozart began composing symphonies at age 4, but they weren’t Mozart symphonies – it took another 13 years for Mozart to start composing outstanding symphonies. [Weisburg, R. 1986. Creativity, genius and other myths. New York: W.H Freeman.]

(From Eliezer Yudkowsky’s book chapter Artificial Intelligence and Global Risk.)

And don’t forget, that’s at least ten years. It took even Mozart 13 years to become good – so even if you’ve been doing something for ten years already, that’s not to say that you still couldn’t get really, really good with, say, another ten years of work. And never forget that how talented you are doesn’t matter one squat if you don’t do anything with that talent – success always requires hard work. Of course, I’m not saying that anybody could do anything, but if people tell you you’re talented and you think you may be talented… hey, you probably are talented.

So now stop worrying about the fact that you didn’t master thing X on the first try, or that you’re still not on the level of Tolkien or J.K. Rowling despite having written all your life. Shut up and go practice, instead. :P

And now that I brought up those two examples – Tolkien finished The Lord of the Rings in 1954, when he was sixty-two years old. He was 45 when he wrote The Hobbit. So even if you’re already nearing sixty, you have no excuse for being angsty over not already completing your Greatest Work. On the other hand, so I wouldn’t get too depressing – Rowling was only 30 when she wrote the first Harry Potter, so you don’t have to be old in order to succeed. It all depends on how much work you’re ready to do.

And now stop reading the web. You have much to do.

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