The Antidote to Mediocrity

On Sunday mornings, I ride my bike to yoga class on the beach. My fellow yogis and I practice throughout winter’s wind and cold. (Okay yes, it’s a SoCal winter but chilly still!) On warmer days, we attempt poses in the crashing waves. Surprisingly, I’ve mastered nothing about yoga except the self-titled Falling Pose. After years of practice, you’d think I would improve or switch to badminton. Instead, I keep going to class. Why do I love something that is a struggle? Let’s ask my brain.


ME: Why do I want to do things that are difficult?

MY BRAIN: When you are pushed to the edge of comfort, I release dopamine — which creates feelings of satisfaction, enjoyment and excitement.

ME: So, I have to be uncomfortable to feel good?

MY BRAIN: Yes, the struggle is key. The road to mediocrity is smooth and easy. The road to mastery is steep.

ME: If I received that in a fortune cookie, I’d burn it. Seriously, how do I master something?

MY BRAIN: You try it and see what could be better. And try it again. This is called deep practice.


MY BRAIN: You will begin to master yoga after you have spent 10,000 hours in deep practice.


I’m getting schooled by my brain and its associate, Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Outliers, Gladwell explains that success requires practicing a specific task for approximately 10,000 hours. This amounts to roughly 90 minutes a day for 20 years. Before becoming a life coach, the only thing I mastered was worry and worry never solved a single problem. Now I’m trading up and staring down 10,000 hours of yoga.


  1. Stretch yourself (and not just for yoga). We are not happy at “easy”. Instead, we are happy working just beyond where we feel capable. For scientific proof, check out Five Things Happy People Do.
  2. Be willing to screw up. You will never do anything well if you aren’t willing to do it badly. Once I decided it was okay to fall, yoga was more fun and amusing (at least for the people around me).
  3. Repeat 10,000 times. (You knew this was coming, right?)

10,000 hours can feel overwhelming. To keep frustrations low, I engage in some mental martial arts. Knowing that mastery will take many, many years can lessen the immediate pressure. I won’t be an expert this week or the week after that or the year after that. It’s going to take 10,000 hours so I might as well enjoy the ride. It is possible to strive and relax at the same time. And if I am relaxed, I can actually go further with yoga.

Is there a skill you’d like to master? A passion that is tugging you? The sooner you complete the first 1,000 hours, the sooner you will complete the remaining 9,000. Just begin.

This entry was posted in Change, Desire, Letting Go. Bookmark the permalink.

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