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Take a little off the top and the side.  Don't be overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible.

Take a little off the top and the side. Don’t be overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible.

Just yesterday some friends shared a little clip from an organization called code.org.  I have to admit, just the thought of coding is something that overwhelms me.  But according to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the creators of twitter, dropbox and many other mega-sites explain, it is an approachable skill.  One of the coding stars explains that it is like any skill that might seem scary at first, whether it is playing an instrument,  learning a sport, or hey learning a language.  I don’t know if this clip is propaganda for some kind of coding cult but I like its message of how the seemingly impossible can be possible.

One phrase that helps me with this these days is “take a little off the top.”  I am a teacher and a father of two young children.  I am pulled in ten thousand directions, so the thought that I would also write, learn Japanese, and learn guitar seems ludicrous.  But taking a “little off the top” is doable and that’s what I’ve learned to do day to day.

I think the ability to persist in small and steady games has been one of the benefits of doing Silverspoon, an online coaching service I used to immerse myself in Japanese more.   In one of the emails I got from Khatzumoto, he summarizes the game/plan of action:

AJATT 7-Step Victory Formula: 0. Have no good intentions whatsoever. Just pick a good direction. No intentions. 1. Start off on the wrong foot. 2. Set your quitting time ahead of time (timeboxing) 3. Do a bad job. Quick. Dirty. Ugly. 4. Do only half the job (or less), using only what tools are immediately available. 5. Stop and switch games at quitting time, before quitting time or as soon as you get bored, whichever comes first. 6. Get more, better tools. 7. Return to step (1)

(BTW, AJATT has a really interesting new article on the importance of skimming.)  I could complain that I don’t have all the time in the world to write the great samurai self-help book or I could play around with writing in 15 minute stretches every morning.  I could whine that I don’t know that I don’t know how to play guitar or I could pull out a lesson from my SRS deck, Jamplay, or any other tools and then just let myself play.  I may not be able to put in 10,000 hours but I can “take a little off the top.”

You can also take a “little off the side.”   What I mean by this egregious hair metaphor is the importance of changing tactics,

Some Brazilian players play "futbol de salao."  Small, challenging environments can improve skills.  Work it!

Some Brazilian players play “futbol de salao.” Small, challenging environments can improve skills. Work it!  BTW this isn’t futbol de salao.  🙂

environments, and tools in addition to the persistence of “taking a little off the top.”  I just finished reading The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle (in five minute daily increments).  His tip #9 is “To Build Soft Skills Play Like a Skateboarder.”  He encourages people to explore and expand their skills “inside challenging, ever changing environments.”  He is alluding to the skateboarders that are featured in Dogtown and Zboys.   One of the ever changing environments they discovered were empty pools.  Confined, ever changing environment that took skateboarding in new directions.  Coyle also discusses how some Brazilian soccer teams train in small rooms that force them to learn all kinds of new skills.

Games are fun because of their limits.   Don’t be scared to develop the skills you want because of limits.   Bend time and space like a ZBoy.  Take a little off the top.  Come at it from all sides. Enjoy.