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Carving a Unique Path to Greatness in Ten Thousand Hours

Updated on May 5, 2017
Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama/Karen is a joyfully home-schooling parent who holds a B.A. in Psychology and M.Ed. in Elementary Education.

Art made by Seafarer Mama's Home-Schooled Daughter

Knitted caterpillar that author's daughter took hours to knit and finish.
Knitted caterpillar that author's daughter took hours to knit and finish. | Source
Switch plate decorated in Griffindor colors by a passionate Harry Potter fan.
Switch plate decorated in Griffindor colors by a passionate Harry Potter fan. | Source

Home-Schooling and Self-Determination

My husband and I have home-schooled our daughter through her elementary years. We have given her time to figure out what she is most passionate about and to spend lots of time exploring and learning about what she loves most. We have made sure she has learned important information in all subject areas, and that she has developed both physical strength and skills in the arts. We have also given her the space to drive her own learning experiences sparked by her natural curiosity, especially science experiments. We have belonged to home-schooling co-ops and have enjoyed adventurous field trips together. But now she needs more.

A Book that has Opened our World Wider

In the past year, we listened to the CD edition of Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. We took away the germ of the idea that if we have spent or would spend 10,000 hours on developing skills and learning more in an area we have the most passion around, we could begin to stand out as accomplished experts. That expertise, paired with a generous helping of confidence, would attract opportunities to use our skills in the areas we love as a means for making a prosperous living. We wanted her to hear this information so that she understood how much time people have spent working toward developing expertise and moving along in their life's work. She has so much of her life ahead of her and we wanted to encourage her to use her time wisely by engaging with experiences that will challenge her and help her develop millions of vibrant neural pathways in the process.

Young Composer

Author's daughter playing an original composition on the piano in front of our UU church.
Author's daughter playing an original composition on the piano in front of our UU church. | Source

Entering Middle School

This fall, my daughter is headed to continue her education at our local public middle school. There are holes in her learning that need to be filled. We believe that she will receive more variety and intensity of stimulation for her developing brain in a school community setting. She will also be in a position to learn about opportunities that may lift her up into a track toward a future that involves making a career out of what she loves to do. Her teachers could be the people who advocate in her favor. She will have the chance to learn more skills in all areas of human development more fully. We will guide her in using her homework time efficiently so that she has much more time to spread her wings and have some fun after school hours

Writing Tools and Labyrinths

Writing notebook on the floor of a wooden gazebo
Writing notebook on the floor of a wooden gazebo | Source
Labyrinth of light built by Seafarer Mama in her  church hall.
Labyrinth of light built by Seafarer Mama in her church hall. | Source
One of the tabletop labyrinths I love to create and sell.
One of the tabletop labyrinths I love to create and sell. | Source

It takes 10,000 hours to be skilled at anything

What do you love to do? Are there days that you have spent from sun-up to sun-down on a particular project that has returned to you a feeling of both accomplishment and renewal? How often do you engage in that activity? Is there a place on your calendar to return to it regularly?

There are lots of things I love to do. Here are a few.


I have been writing since I attended high school. I am a published author of a gardening book, The Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Berries: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply (2010). I also self-published a poetry chapbook in 2008, titled Running with the Wings of the Beast which I have read from at poetry open mics in Boston. Presently, I publish two blog posts and one hub a month.

I also have a work-in-progress novel manuscript that is patiently waiting for more of my attention. When ideas for characters come to mind, I jot them down in my notebook dedicated to the details of writing that book. During NaNoWriMo 2015 and 2016 I wrote 36,000 words toward my goal. I now have roughly 27,000 words left to write. I actually have more because I am reworking its structure, but that's okay. I am on my way.


Another passion of mine is walking labyrinths. I am close to attaining my certification as a Labyrinth Walk Facilitator. Labyrinths are patterns for walking meditations that integrate body, mind and soul. They lead walkers on a series of turns toward a center, then out again. I have spent many hours walking labyrinths, studying their history and building a few. Since I live in New England and snow buries our outside labyrinths for several months of the year, I have begun creating desktop labyrinth paths for enthusiasts to walk with their fingers.

Art is Life for Me

Seafarer Mama playing flute at an open mic
Seafarer Mama playing flute at an open mic | Source
Pastel drawing of the center of my community's labyrinth
Pastel drawing of the center of my community's labyrinth | Source
Sunflowers smiling at me from my garden
Sunflowers smiling at me from my garden | Source

Music, Art and Gardening


My musicianship began when I learned to play the flutophone in first grade. When I was in fifth grade I gave the clarinet a try. In high school I played my first guitar. It wasn't until I moved to Boston at the age of 25 that I started learning to play the flute. I haven't put it down since.

Presently, I practice flute about one to two hours a week. My ideal day would include my playing for at least an hour. My ideal week would include my playing daily. I spend more time playing my mandolin and tin whistles, since it is easier for me to leave them out to grab when I have a moment, and they don't need me to spend as much time warming them up. Since we have short electronic keyboard, I use it to teach my daughter simple tunes or to plunk out alto harmonies I am working on for pieces I sing with our UU choir. When my daughter attends classes or workshops at our church for just her age group, I use that time to practice piano music on the upright in our choir rehearsal room or the grand in our sanctuary. This happens just once a month or so between October and June. I am grateful to have that resource so that I can spend time playing piano music, and my brain and hand muscles remember how.

All forms of Visual Art

Over the years I have taken art classes focused on specific mediums: pastels, colored pencils, watercolors, pottery, etc. Presently I am taking a series of abstract art classes, where I use acrylic paints as the foundation, then add layers with a variety of other mediums. I also paint the backgrounds of the labyrinth paths I create.


Ever since I was a child I have loved to garden. I even wrote a book about growing fruits and berries. I now cultivate vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers. In addition to the different types of gardens in my backyard, my daughter and I just added an oak tree to the landscape.

Eating fresh food off home-grown plants and adding them to meals is one of my life's deepest pleasures. There is nothing like the pure crunch of organic fruits and veggies plucked straight from their source. Cooking food for my family and friends that I have grown myself is one of my expressions of love for them. Planting, watering and harvesting are the highlights of my summer. So are the visits from critters such as dragonflies and grasshoppers as I stand watering them. Watering our gardens in the late afternoon sunshine is my favorite time of a summer's day. When I am not watering, I am practicing photography by taking pictures of them, drawing them, or composing poems about them.

My Poetry Chapbook

"Running with the Wings of the Beast" is the poetry chapbook I self-published in 2008.
"Running with the Wings of the Beast" is the poetry chapbook I self-published in 2008. | Source
The flag that I designed and my friend Jo sewed as a gift to our local children's librarian.
The flag that I designed and my friend Jo sewed as a gift to our local children's librarian. | Source

Time Management and Scheduling

What do I do with all of the tings I love? How do I fit them all in? The answer is scheduling! It is important to write into our appointment calendars the things we love to do with our time. Ever since I was a graduate student pursuing my M.Ed., I have carried around an appointment calendar as a piece of my anatomy. In it I recorded appointments, group project gatherings, and deadlines for assignments. It was the key to my finally walking on graduation day with my degree in my hand.

I have fun with my planning!

Every year I order myself a new appointment book. I'll order one with a pleasing cover and delightful design. One feature that is important to me is to have very big squares for writing in goals, get-togethers and other endeavors. I even write in special meals that I plan to cook on special days. My writing, music, art and gardening time are all scheduled in.

There are also things I don't schedule. Home-schooling is a given, so I don't usually have it on my daily calendar. I have a notebook that i record what my daughter has accomplished for the day, and that is how I keep track of what we need to be working on at any given time. Some activities she does independently while I write or read.

A typical Thursday may look like this:

8:00 a.m.: Yoga

8:30 a.m.: Breakfast

9:00 a.m. - Noon: Home-schooling activities/ Reading

Noon: Lunch (sometimes prepared by my daughter while I complete a task/chore)

1 - 3 p.m.: Home-schooling activities

3 - 4 p.m.: Practice belly dance choreography

4 - 5 p.m.: Play flute

6 p.m.: Water the garden (spring, summer, fall)

6:30 p.m.: Walk community labyrinth

6:45/7 p.m. Attend community meal or start cooking family dinner

8 p.m.: Play lullabies on tin whistles and mandolin

Cooking is one of my Favorite Activities, Every Day

A tray of mini English Muffin Pizzas
A tray of mini English Muffin Pizzas | Source

What Would Your Perfect Day Look Like?

Now is the time for you to think about where you can schedule in doing what you love around what you are already committed to. You may have work and family life to schedule around.

Draw it Out

If you are feeling stuck, draw a picture of what your favorite day would look like and color it. You don't have to be a professional artist to do that. Draw stick figures. Just get it down on paper. Visualizing is important to the brain's ability to believe you can achieve something. I usually need extra help in visualizing what I want my life to look like after a particular change, so I draw it out. Seeing the picture of my goals before me makes them tangible and real, and fuels my determination to turn them into physical realities.

If you are an engineer, you might like the idea of constructing a 3D model of your perfect day. If so, go to it! Do whatever it takes to harness the power of determination, then run with it.

How Would You Divide Your 10,000 Hours?

Two (2) Hours a Day
Four (4) Hours a Day
Eight (8) Hours a Day
13 years, 9 months
6 years, 11 months
3 years, 4 months

*** Times periods indicated are estimations, rounded up from author's calculations.

A Recent Page of my Appointment Book

My present calendar is also an adult coloring book, which I love to fill out while I'm listening to audio books.
My present calendar is also an adult coloring book, which I love to fill out while I'm listening to audio books. | Source
My colleague Carey moves her hands along the labyrinth path I created for her as a piece of abstract art.
My colleague Carey moves her hands along the labyrinth path I created for her as a piece of abstract art. | Source

When can you sneak it In?

Do you have any time in the evening that you could give to something you love? Is it something related to a class that is being offered at your local Adult Education Center? Do you have time during your weekends? Is there something you'd be willing to give up in favor of doing what you love, or practicing something you want to learn?

Work with what you have

If the tools you have are pens and a wall calendar you are already using for other things, then start there! Use different pen colors for the different types of time commitments you record there. Dedicate one to making time for a new endeavor, or more of one you haven't done in a while.

Figure out how many hours a day you can carve out for practicing a skill you want to improve on. If daily practice doesn't work for you, use the table above to figure out other blocks of time over the course of a week you can commit to. What is your time frame for progress? Based on the two-hour-a-day model, are there a couple of days a week you can schedule bigger blocks of time to make up for other days when you cannot practice?

Give Yourself Credit

Another thing that has helped me keep moving toward new goals is giving myself credit. I keep a journal and have recorded the ways in which I have kept up with doing things I love over the course of my life. You may want to map out the ways you have begun to work toward establishing a new habit or skill over the course of your life. Even if you did something and cast it aside for a while, it may be time to pick it up again and dedicate your time to that work. Even if you have to double task, such as practicing chip carving while you listen to a favorite radio show or CD, the important part is that you are doing what you want to become good, or better, at.

Sometimes it's still True: Less is More

There is no shame in having only half an hour a day to spend on something, like practicing scales or simple tunes on an instrument. Spending that half hour is much better for the health of your brain than not doing it at all! Progress may take longer, but if you enjoy what you are doing, then I am sure you will want to keep going once you start, and those small blocks of time may start growing bigger. Time has a way of expanding when we are doing something that feeds our soul. Eventually your new activity will bring you increasing joy and will become a self-sustaining habit. Now I will leave you the space to get down to working toward your new goal.

Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors! I hope this hub has inspired and encouraged you. Namaste!

Find out How to Better Your Odds at Skills Meeting Awesome Opportunities

Outliers: The Story of Success
Outliers: The Story of Success
My husband, daughter and I listened to this book on CD. The content within is very insightful and influential to how we have home-schooled, and how we will guide our daughter through her middle school and high school years.

© 2017 Karen A Szklany


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