Meg's Blog

Quitters DO Win

Everyone wants to know….

…whatever happened to Carol (see: entry before this one entitled TRUE STORY).

Carol's story really seemed to strike a chord with readers. I'm glad so many of you appreciated the Carol story, including my own mother, who prank called me after reading it, pretending to be Carol (but it didn't work because I have Caller ID. HA HA!).

Honestly, I don't know what happened to Carol. I Googled her recently and nothing really came up, so I guess she never achieved her goal of becoming famous…UNTIL THIS BLOG!!!!

And to all the teachers who wrote asking if they could print out the Carol blog to use in the classroom: Of course!

I was cheered when I opened the New York Times Magazine this weekend to find that one of the first stories in it supported my “practice” theory: Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, in their article, A STAR IS MADE, write about the Expert Performance Movement, described as “a loose coalition of scholars trying to answer an important and seemingly primordial question: When someone is very good at a given thing, what is it that actually makes him good?”

The answer they came up with, after years of research? Practice.

Oh, there's SLIGHTLY more to it than that. The article goes on to say that their research proved that “when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't “good” at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.”

This makes perfect sense to me. It is why I quit, in no particular order, ice skating, jogging, softball, cooking, driving, basketball, track, laundry, ballet, French, drama, flute, painting, screenwriting, and something called callanetics.

The reason I quit? I sucked at them. And I didn't enjoy them enough to want to practice to get any better.

And now, according to this scientific study, it turns out that's exactly what we're SUPPOSED to do—quit the things we don't like very much, so we can concentrate on practicing the things we DO like.

This is a total IN YOUR FACE to all those annoying people I've known through the years who went around saying “Quitters never win.” Um, actually, dudes? This study proves quitters DO win. They win because instead of concentrating on stuff they don't like, they quit to make time for the stuff they do.

PSYCH to all those Quitters Never Win people. Also, WORD.

Of course, no one is saying you should try something once and quit right away if you don't like it. Or that if you love doing something, but find it difficult, you should just quit instead of trying harder. You have to give things a fair shot—and KEEP giving things a fair shot throughout your life, never giving up on the things you love to do, and always trying new things.

Because you never know which one of them might turn out to be YOUR thing.

If you'd like to read more about the findings of the Expert Performance Movement, their 900-page academic book, “Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance,” will be published next month. Or I can spare you the trouble of reading it by spoiling the ending of it for you now:

The scientists conclude that “there is surprisingly little hard evidence that anyone could attain any kind of exceptional performance without spending a lot of time perfecting it. The trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect.”

Poor, poor Carol.

Now, Tess Gerritsen is an example of a someone who found what she loved, then practiced it hard. She's a hugely bestselling medical thriller writer, but she doesn't seem to have let that go to her head. Her blog is often hilarious. Check out this most recent entry, on “Hacks.”

And of course because she got a medical degree before becoming a novelist, Tess is high up on my list of writers that aspiring novelists should emulate.

Because it is very important to be able to support yourself while you are practicing becoming good at the thing you love.

More later.

Much love,