Now and then I get into conversations with my son about his next visit down here…which may come during summer, but hopefully September after the heat breaks.

The reason?  It will be a fine time to work on a couple of his “500-hour skills.”  You see, he’s a prepper/survival-type, too.

Many people don’t realize it, but there is a growing set of data that says that “Talent is Overrated.”  (See the book for  Kindle Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.)

One of the examples in the book is about a study that divided a large number of young people into five groups.  And these were made up of people who seemed likely to succeed in becoming musicians and those not, with several gradients in-between.

What shocked  everyone was that there didn’t seem to be any “natural-born” musicians.  Just those who would relentlessly  practice 2-hours a day or longer, and those who did  not.  No surprise in the outcome; It’s pretty clear that anyone who is willing to work long-enough and hard-enough to learn a new skill will, by God, nail it…eventually.

The people with supposed “musical genius” turned out no better as musicians than those deemed likely to fail at music.  And the differentiator?  Who did the work.  Yeah…W-O-R-K.

There are a lot of things that dads like to talk to their sons about; but a huge amount between me and G2 has to do with “What have you 500-hour’ed lately?”

G2 has (more or less) done it all – and most of his learnings are in the fields where he has invested way more  than 500-hours.

For example, being a skydive instructor…he’s up in the 600-700 jump area now.  And on his  Uber gig, he’s not only done way more than 500-hours of driving, but he made  Forbes for his “Uber ride menu” that he hands out to passengers.  Nailing excellence is a family hobby.

Those aren’t his only skills.  He has, for example, way more than 500 hours of training in being an EMT.  More than 500 in putting commercial roofs on buildings, and probably coming up on 500-hours in serious “back country” hiking, orienteering and snow camping from Stevens Pass down toward Snoqualmie Pass along the Pacific Crest Trail up in Washington State.

The “joy of parenting” (regardless of the age) is to introduce your offspring to new things that they might find worth 500-hours of their time.  George 2 already has his Amateur Extra Class license, and that was in less than 500-hours by a long shot.  BUT what he hasn’t picked off yet is the 35 word per minute Morse Code speed.  Once upon a time, the FCC required Morse Code for ham radio licenses and the Extra Class took a while to get because to nail it (back in the day) you needed solid 20 word per minute copy.  That took a lot of time to develop (or I’m slow…hmmm…)

On G’s next visit, I have a ton of potential projects for him to lean into, but he’s already got his “skill shopping list” going.  For one, he wants to know how to become a faster writer.  He’s got two books in process ( Living in the Hot Zone which is about some of his infectious disease adventures {including MRSA} while another is  Zero to Hero which recounts his missteps along a path from high school drop out, through “successful commercial burglar” to felon, and then the hard (all up-hill road) restoration of “solid citizen status” including getting his felonies expunged, and getting his gun rights.

What this has to do with 500-hour blocks?

 I consider myself a very good pilot.  Never had an incident, save on brake lock-up on touchdown at Tacoma Narrows airport that sent us careening into the grass on the west side of the runway.  In my early days of flying, that kind of thing could have been a disaster.  BUT when you get past that 500-hour “magic marker” you have enough “sense about you” (owning your skills) that you handle everything (including potentially very serious mishaps) in stride.

When I started jotting down all the “500-hour blocks” I could think of, it got to be an interesting list.  Some of places where you’ll find ’em in your own life if you look?

  • For a Coast Guard 6-pack license you need a year of “sea time.”  Ran into this because, after living on a big sailboat for 10+ years, I thought “Gee, why not get a captain’s license?”  I sure as hell had the “sea time” for it.  (Ultimately, I didn’t, figuring out that in a lawyered-up city, if I was ever involved in a nautical incident, someone would try to pin it on the only licensed skipper involved….)
  • Airplane License:  200 hours for a basic commercial ticket but good luck getting that without an instrument rating.  And for the grown-up Air Transport License?  You need have a minimum of 1,500 hours of total flight time, 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night time (or 75 hours with at least 45 night landings) plus 75 hours of instrument time (25 can be in “flown” in a simulator).
  • There are lots of trades where you’ll find the magic 500-hours.  Apprenticing requirements, time-in-grade kind of stuff.
  • School, too.  A bachelors degree pencils out to about 500-hours per year of study…or more, especially if in the math and physics or business arenas.  I figure at least a thousand in the MBA program; not so much the classes, but the reading went on and on and….
  • If you want to build a house?  A crew of five men can knock-out a 2,000 ft. spec home in a month.  880 – 900 hours, which seems awful damn slow.  About 2.3 square feet per hour.  Even though, some parts of the job go really fast (framing, sheet rocking, mudding, texture, and paint) while other parts are agonizingly so – electrical, plumbing, septic/sewer, water lines, permitting….

This is another one of those “thoughts that wander by” during coffee one morning this week.  When you get on “this side of 70” you sit back, review your list of “500-hour competencies” and then try to figure out which (in whatever time remaining is) are the ones are worth putting additional effort into.  What skills will matter next?  Have the highest return on investment?

G2 doesn’t realize it (yet) but I found a wood 10X20 greenhouse kit online for $200-bucks.  Just the wood and metal frame.  It will take a 7-yard load of pea gravel, a bunch of railroad ties and some other goodies to install such a green house, but the old Harbor Freight greenhouse will only be another season, maybe two.  It would be fun to toss up 200 SF more greenhouse as a “father-son” project while he’s here.  Bet we could get the whole thing done in 50-hours, or less, complete with inside grow tables, several hose faucets, and wiring in for lights, hydroponic pumps, evap cooler and winter heat. The price of corrugated polycarbonate is not totally unreasonable….

We shall see…a conversation about which of his 500-hour skills is next on his “punch list.”  Mine is still lacking 450-hours of welding, lol…Do I want to play George Barris at this age?

There is a  huge gap between being “able to do” something and bumping & stumbling through it versus being highly skilled.  Keep track of your 500-hour core because that’s where your future is likely to lead.  Especially if the crap hits the fan and the only chance of survival is dictated by what you already know, right then and there.

(BTW, some of our readers have literally  dozens and dozens of such competencies…this is not a site full of theoreticians and benchwarmers. )

Write when you get rich,

“The 100-Year Toaster” (Ch.5 of book)
Big Trouble with Mexico this Weekend?