When the Philological Society of London decided in 1857 that a new English dictionary was needed, it was estimated that it would take about ten years to complete. This was a tad optimistic. The work that culminated in the Oxford English Dictionary took over seven decades to complete.
Closer to home, I probably underestimated the immensity of my project.
Here’s a sobering line of thought. Reading a book about neuroplasticity, I encountered the assertion that mastering a physical skill might take some 100,000 repetitions. Such assertions necessarily are approximate, of course, and beg the question of how anyone knows this to be so. But let’s take it as a given. Doing some quick ciphering, I can do 2400 reps in an hour—that accounts for non-rep time devoted to strength and conditioning, taking rest breaks, tuning the odd recalcitrant string, and stopping to investigate a mysterious crash caused by a curious cat. This works out to 100,000 reps in, according to my calculator, 41.666667 hours. (Love those irrational numbers.) So working an hour a day five days a week, it would take roughly two months to master a given skill. That in itself is daunting.
On top of that, however, my quick cipher ignores limiting factors. For example, those repetitions can’t be mindless—rather, they must be purposeful and carefully controlled. And I can concentrate only for so long in one sitting. That in itself limits the number of reps I can do in any one session. Further, my right hand project isn’t merely one skill. It’s actually a constellation of interlocking skills, each of which needs its own time and attention to master. Thinking this through realistically, it’s easy to see how my little project balloons exponentially.
On the bright side, when a man’s reach exceeds his grasp, he’ll at least be everlastingly engaged in interesting work. So I’ll always have a reason to get up in the morning.
My end of August (or beginning of September) video report is up and running. Rather than jabber endlessly on camera, I’ve opted for a Marcel Marceau document of how I’m currently working on rest stroke alternation. Though there are other things I do during my morning sessions, the video concentrates on the bulk of what I’m currently doing. Enjoy.
——[My next update will be September 12, 2011]——