When I was in 7th grade, I got a letter asking me if I wanted to go to an experimental summer program for 13 year olds at Duke University after I took the SATs.
Everyone there was smarter than me. The first day there, one person told me he was building a computer in his dorm room. Another kid was one of the youngest chessmasters in the country.
The idea of the program was that people only really learn when they are immersed in something.
My subject was “Math.” So in a three week period I passed through all of high school math and one year of Calculus.
From 8am until about 5pm you sat in a room and went at your own pace. Teaching assistants stood around and would help you if you needed it. Then you would take tests to advance to the next level whenever you wanted.
I ended up last in the class.
The second summer I went back I took Statistics. We figured out all the statistics for Monopoly.
I have three words for you: St. James. Place. Then build as many hotels as you can on the Orange group and CHEAPER. Forget about the expensive stuff.
(Oh, and buy all of the railroads. Trust me.)
That third summer I ruined my life.
I liked a girl. Marcy.
Statistics were obliterated when she spoke to me. The odds never went in my favor. She wouldn’t let me own her St. James Place.
For the rest of high school I was obsessed with a girl liking me. Any girl.
So I tried to get good at things. I tried to get good at tricks. At gimmicks.
Maybe if I were special, if I had a gift I could give, then a girl would bless me her special gift back. People would like me.
Chess is probably the wrong thing to get good at if you want a girl to like you.
Breakdancing was slightly better. But if you’re Jewish, with glasses, and braces, then it sort of looks funny when you try to breakdance.
And what completely failed was trying to learn hypnosis so you could command girls to undress in front of you. That NEVER worked.
These were all gimmicks.
The only way to get good at something is to completely immerse yourself in it — to the outside world, immersion is the same as magic.
You can only immerse yourself in something you love.
Else you won’t be able to get good. The 10,000 hour rule will fail.
With immersion + love you can get great in much less than 10,000 hours.
Lesson: Only do the things you love. Otherwise, you’re running on a treadmill. And the treadmill will stop when you least expect it, cracking happiness into pieces.
I still try to do too many gimmicks to get people to love me. But I think I’m getting better at avoiding doing the things I don’t love with people I don’t love. It’s a daily practice.
Right now, all I want to do is immerse myself in these Facebook status updates. That sounds stupid but it’s true.
I love stringing words together. How to connect them so they tick-tock like a clock. I love to read writers who really know how to WRITE. That’s what obliterates me now.
Or maybe I’ll learn to just enjoy a good book. Take a walk by the river with Claudia. Watch the sun set. And learn to love looking at the mountains without always having to climb them.