“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. Its the thing you do that makes you good.
-Malcom Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
To become stronger at anything the equation is actually very simple:
REPEATED ACTION + TIME = STRENGTH
This works in any situation I promise. In college I was a really good beer drinker. Like really good. Keg stands? Bring it. Beer bong? Hell yes. Shots? Tequila please!
Why was I so good at it? Repetition over time. The first time I got drunk I puked all over the bathroom at my dads house (sorry bro…guess you shouldnt have fed your little sister Zima). But don’t worry, I didn’t give up. I powered forward and became a beer chugging champion by the age of 20. Or maybe 19. Or who really knows its all a little fuzzy. Here’s the point I am making. I practiced daily and I got good at it.
After I turned 21 I took my beer drinking skills and went pro, bartending at less than quality establishment in town. And at the ripe age of 23 I was working in a bar putting my professional beer drinking skills to good use when I found roller derby. After seeing a commercial for some crazy sport with chicks on roller skates smashing into each other I googled it and found a local league. The Orange County Demolition Divas said I could come try it out so I went and bought a pair of roller skates.
Oh shit. I was about as good at roller skating at 23 as I was at drinking beer when i was 16. There was a little less throwing up but definitely about the same amount of falling and bruises. But, just like my first career pounding brews, I started to put in the work every day. I would skate around my neighborhood, go to skating rinks, and I even got a job as a cocktail waitress where I was allowed to wear my roller skates. You want to know how to become stellar at roller derby? Skate through 200 drunk people in a bar at 1:00am stepping over spilled PBR and fishing cocktail napkins out of your wheels while carrying a tray of Patron shots. Yep. Footwork.
When I transferred to LA Derby Dolls about a year into my derby career I had dumped my bartending gig and was back in school to get my elementary school teaching credential. I would leave work at the school at 3pm drive my ass all the way up to Los Angeles from Huntington Beach and arrive at the track 3 hours early. I would study for 2 hours in the parking lot and hop on the track as soon as one of the coaches got there and allowed me to skate. Becuase even after a year in derby I could’t stop. T stop, plow stop, hockey stop. None of it and I missed making a team because of it. So here we go again. Repeated action over time creates strength.
Its been almost 9 years since I first put on a pair of skates. I think I am now more coordinated in skates than on my own two feet. I have skated all over the world, experienced the victory of a 3 time banked track championship, competed in some of the highest ranked WFTDA roller derby tournaments, and shared the track with many of the greatest roller derby skaters who have ever lived. But it didnt happen over night and it wasnt easy.
I dont know where inside us drive comes from. I don’t think its something we can ever manufacture or get from a book. But I have seen it enough in myself and in others to know that when you want something, I mean really really want something, you will make the sacrifice of time, sleep, social events, whatever to go out and get it. Malcom Gladwell says in Outliers that the key to success in any field is simply a matter of practicing a task for a total of around 10,000 hours. So if you are on hour 1 or hour 1,000, be patient. Your strength will come.