A Thousand Years Like One Day

This year I started tracking how often I go to the gym for BJJ, and roughly how long I spend there. Each day, I log onto my website and add the classes that I did, and it keeps a running total for me. I didn’t do this for August-December of last year when I started taking classes. But I estimate that I did about 60 hours in those final 4 months.  So far this year, I’ve done approximately 171 hours. That includes technique, sparring, seminars and early morning conditioning.

As I looked at that number, 171 hours, a few things hit me. First, 171 hours of physical activity in a little over 5 months is something that that I would have balked at a year ago. Secondly, I started to think that was a lot of time in general. If I’d spent that same 171 hours doing paid side-projects, I’d have a good chunk of change to show for it.

But then it dawned on me. 171 hours is almost nothing towards mastering a skill. 171 hours is slightly more than a single man-month on a job. That thought made me reflect back to when I first got out of college and started working at Caterpillar. By my 5th week at Cat, I knew where things were around the office. I knew the name of just about everyone in my group. I knew what time we typically ate lunch. I knew the time that each of my coworkers typically got in to the office, and I had a rough idea of what the project was that I was working on. And by rough, I mean rough. I knew that I was making some kind of tester for Cat’s generators and that was about it.  There was still a lot of hand-holding going on, because there was still a ton of things I didn’t understand. But now, 13 years (or roughly 27,000 hours) later I’m much more competent in my field than I was then. There is far less hand-holding. People come to me to ask questions about how to develop something, rather than me always being the one asking questions.

Now, looking back at jiu jitsu. I’ve had several people comment about the amount of time I spend training jiu jitsu, and it is significant enough to impact other areas of my  life. I watch less TV, I haven’t done paid side projects in about a year, etc. But even if I keep up this pace for the remainder of the year, I’ll only have 390 hours of jiu jitsu this year, which translates to about 10 weeks of a full-time job.

That puts things in a whole new perspective for me. At the end of 10 weeks in a new career, if you said you were proficient, it would be doubtful, if you said you were good, it would be a lie, and if you said you were great, you’d be delusional. For me, I think I was on the job at Cat for about a year before I really started to feel like I “got it.” Not that I was good or even proficient, but I was starting to understand what this whole production software business was really all about. If I translate that into hours, it’s about 2000 hours (a man year is typically defined as 2080.)  So at my current rate of about 1 hour a day, it would take me a little over 5 years of training to have the same number of hours on the mat as I did at the end of 1 year on the job.

It’s pretty eye-opening to think about training in that light.