Monday, September 29, 2014

10,000 Hours of Practice, or 600,000 Minutes of Saying "I Can Do This."

At the recent graduation of LA Fellows Cohort 10, two speakers were chosen by their classmates to represent the group at the podium. One of those speakers was Sara Lamog, whose last position was in the Peace Corps, and who aspires to serve humanitarian causes on a global level. Here are the words of inspiration she shared with the audience who assembled to celebrate the day: 

Good morning, everyone -- Mr. Lennie Ciufo, our dynamic coach and Job Training Director; Allison and Mary, our dedicated program leaders. Good morning Marcos, Doni and Barbara, our representatives from the Canoga Park WorkSource Center who so generously made funding for this program possible.

Good morning to all of our immensely giving instructors -- I know you must be happy to see us all in our seats on time! Hello to all of our families and friends, whose support and strength have played a big part in us being here today.

And finally, good morning to my dear colleagues and friends in LA Fellows Cohort 10. My, how far we’ve come.

It’s been said before that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. 10,000 hours. That’s almost 60 weeks of non-stop determination and continued momentum. That’s 416 days of constant effort and learning. That’s 600,000 minutes of saying “I can do this” and truly believing you can.

Those may sound like some daunting statistics, but not to us LA Fellows in Cohort 10. Why? Because we’re already more than half-way there. As a cohort made up of 32 tenacious individuals, we’ve collectively blazed through 8,960 hours of training. That number includes 19 all-day classroom training sessions, 5 weeks of optional computer classes, and about a dozen days dedicated to personalized job search, networking and nonprofit exploration. That leaves a little more than 1,000 hours left to become an expert LA Fellow. And if you split that between 32 of us and add in each of our 100 volunteer hours at a local nonproft -- that’s a done deal.

Then again, for as close as we all are, why stop at that 10,000th hour? Although today may mark our graduation, who says we need to stop our own training and practice for becoming a full-fledged LA Fellow expert? I say, we keep marching -- but more on that in a little bit. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how it all started.
On July 28th, Cohort 10 began its journey of chipping away at those 10,000 hours. It was in a room in the Engineering Building of this very campus we all sat, not knowing each other’s names and each of us curiously wondering where the people sitting around us had come from. What brought us here? What jobs had left us behind, or rather, what jobs had we left behind? Where did we come from?

At the time, the one thing that tied us all together was our commitment to the LA Fellows program. Nine weeks of rigorous, paradigm-shifting training that lay ahead of us--challenging us to put our best foot forward in our renewed job search efforts, step out of both our pasts, as well as our comfort zones, and onward onto that next step of progress and advancement.

And for nine weeks, that’s exactly what we’ve done, Cohort 10! We learned how to meet opportunities with sharp, narrow, focused approaches guided by our strong values, interests, and areas of expertise. We learned how to adapt and embrace change when someone moves our cheese. And in the event we have to confront a fight or flight-inducing situation, we learned how to control our fears with the emotional intelligence of a Navy Seal. Even better, as we learned how to tackle the dreaded interview questions like, “Can you walk me through your resume?” or my favorite, “Can you tell me about yourself?”, we learned how to captivate our audiences and walk them all the way to the answer (and Canada!) in 90 seconds or less.

All the while, as we perfected our job search strategies, we also had the opportunity to learn so much more about each other. Not only could we never go back to being mere strangers, especially after we all learned each other’s names by Day 2, we learned who among us were the direct Eagles of our group, who our wise, systematic Owls were, who the lovable, spirited Roadrunners were among us, and finally, who the considerate Doves were that we could turn to.

We also learned how to be there for each other, day in and day out. Whether it be in partner or group setting, together we learned how to perfectly craft a bullet-point and add it to our updated resumes. We uncovered who to share insights with about similarly targeted companies. We found out the tricks of the trade to mastering public speaking and we all learned how to become a drum band!

After 9 weeks, the LA Fellows program took us, a group of 32 diverse individuals, and molded us into true fellows, in every sense of the word.

Now, when I looked up the word “fellow” in the dictionary, I was surprised at what the definition is. It defines a fellow as a person in the same position, involved in the same activity, or a member of a group of people who have shared interests. To me, that definition connoted a very casual familiarity, one seemingly more based on happenstance, on chance -- and not so much by a conscious commitment or bond.

It was when I dug deeper and looked at all of the synonyms for “fellow,” that’s where I found words that more realistically conveyed the bond that LA Fellows truly have. Those synonyms are: colleague, friend, comrade, partner. Companion. That’s more like it! Wouldn’t you agree, Cohort 10?

As we sit here today, not only have we gained new insights and tools to the job search, we also leave here emboldened with a strong, lasting, and capable camaraderie. And to think, so much of that had to do with how we all took to heart one of the simplest requests from Allison and Mary on the first day: sit next to someone new every day. And as a result, I think it’s safe to say that our original wondrous curiosity of where we all came from has now become, “Where are we going?”

So my dear fellow Fellows, where are we going? More importantly, where are you going and where do you want to go? As today’s graduation may mark the culmination of our formal training, let’s take a moment and look at this ending from another angle.

I propose we see today as another first day of an adventure, just like July 28th was for us 9 weeks ago. Let’s continue to change seats everyday from here on out, only now that we’ve graduated, let’s change those seats metaphorically. Let’s promise to continue putting our best foot forward and stepping out of our comfort zones by challenging ourselves (and each other) to say Yes when we are inclined to say No.

Most of all, let’s continue the precedence--the lifestyle--of an expert LA Fellow, long after we’ve achieved our 10,000th hour. As we part ways today, let’s promise to continue dedicating our time and effort to preparation, opportunity, service, heart, and success. Together, let’s continue to seek out and explore the pathway to meaningfulness when we want to so easily cling to comfort.

Cohort 10, let’s continue marching onward to that next step of personal and professional growth!

Thank you.


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