Lou’s Been Thinking about Job Mastery

Lou Hecklerby Lou Heckler, CSP, CPAE

I’ve been thinking about “time in grade.”

When I served in the U. S. Army many years ago, there was always talk about how much “time in grade” a person had. The military is very conscious about how long you remain in one rank and how promotable you are if you decide to make your service a career.
More recently, Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success

talked about how all truly successful people have logged at least 10,000 hours in their chosen field before they make it big. And, then, just this past week, I was reading about Remco van Vliet.

Mr. Vliet is a flower arranger. Well, that’s putting it too simply. He is really a 38-year-old artist who arranges flowers. Big arrangements! We’re talking arrangements that grace the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. And…he changes them every week, dazzling the five million-plus visitors who pass through the Great Hall every year.

The Wall Street Journal article about him says he was raised in The Netherlands by a father who arranged flowers for the Dutch royal family. There, people study for seven years for a job like this, learning everything they can about flowers and color and what blooms look best next to one another.

When he came to the U. S., he studied another seven years under his predecessor before assuming his current role in 2003. I think we can say he “knows his stuff.”

So, what does this have to do with us? I’ve been thinking that I know an awful lot of young people who are incredibly impatient and who don’t realize (or don’t like the fact) that mastery of any work is going to take that 10,000 hours or those 14 years of learning or something more than a snap of the fingers or believing wishing will make it so.

Maybe the formula goes like this: do the time in grade…do it right…do it again and again…and THEN you’ll do it well.

Lou Heckler is a motivational humorist and business speaker with more than 40 years experience in managing, motivating and directing others. In 2010, readers of “Meetings and Conventions” Magazine named him as one of their favorite keynote speakers. He has been married since 1968 to five-times-published novelist Jonellen Heckler and they have a son Steve, daughter-in-law Johanna, and two granddaughters.

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