If you had the chance to ask an “Expert on Life” for advice, what would you ask them? I am lucky enough to have had that chance.
I’ve read that it takes 10,000 hour of doing something to become an expert at it. I’m not sure if that’s 100% accurate or not, but it’ll work for the sake of this blog. Anyway, if you calculate that out, 10,000 hours equals 250 weeks of working a 40 hour per week job. That means you can become an expert at your job in five years while still taking two weeks per year for vacation. Not bad, huh?
Let’s put that into perspective. If you answer the phone for a customer service job, you will have mastered all you need to handle standard and even rare issues. Sounds pretty accurate, accepting a bit of flexibility for product changes, new technology, etc. If you fix computer systems, you can definitely master it and become an expert in five years. But what about just plain living?
Life is a dynamic, ever-changing thing. As we grow, our world around us changes and we experience new situations all the time. So, how long does it take to become an expert at life? I know personally that I’m not an expert at 40 years old. But what about 50? Or 60? How about 85 years?
Enter My Expert on Life
A few months ago, two of our daughters started taking art lessons from one of the sweetest people to ever walk the planet. She goes by Miss Esther, and she is an amazing woman. She charges barely anything for a two hour lesson, and I know that during that time, her eight and ten year old students will be exposed to stories about her life, lessons about treating others in a Christian way, and of course a long list of artistic techniques, from facial symmetry when drawing portraits to making a flower out of a Spirograph drawing.
This week, Miss Esther will turn 85. Yesterday, we took her out to lunch to celebrate. As soon as we picked her up (she energetically hopped up into my pickup truck), we tossed around names of places to eat, and when someone mentioned a hibachi restaurant, her eyes lit up. She enthusiastically said, “Let’s go there! Let’s do something ADVENTUROUS!” She hadn’t had hibachi cooking since she was in her 20s! (That’s the 1950s for those of you keeping track!) I’m pleased to say that, at 85 years old, Miss Esther can finally say she has now tried sushi, and she loved it! She even took the leftover sushi home!
During lunch, I let her know the 10,000 hour statistic. I said that, as someone who was born before the great depression and lived through every event since 1928, I consider her to truly be an expert on life. I then asked her something I always ask in a situation such as this. I asked, “After everything you have experienced, do you have any advice for someone younger on how to enjoy life and live right?” Miss Esther answered immediately, as if she didn’t even have to think.
“Be thankful for what you have. Be thankful for the air that fills your lungs. Be thankful if you can get up and walk across the room. Be thankful for the people in your life and the things in your house. Be thankful that God cares about you and sent His Son to die for you. Be thankful for every day that you wake up and every single thing you have and you will always be happy.”
Even if you are not a Christian, I think it is obvious that this is really good advice. Today in church we saw a picture of a house in Malawi, a country in Africa. The house did not have windows or a door. I was talking to my kids about it, and Miss Ether’s comments. In this country, many of us don’t even realize how appreciative we should be that our house has a door on it and windows, much less the pool in the yard or heating and air conditioning. Or a car. Or a convenience store up the street. Or vaccinations. The list goes on and on.
I don’t know if it’s factual that a person is an expert on something after 10,000 hours or not, but I do truly believe that someone who has been alive for 85 years is an expert on life and worth asking for advice. I appreciate the joy, energy and beauty that Miss Esther brings to the lives of the kids, and the way she makes Andrea and I smile as well. And I appreciate the advice she gave. In a way, it’s a big part of what is driving us in our new business. We want to help others celebrate and be thankful for the special things in their lives. But we also have to always remember to appreciate each other, and be thankful for all of the things we do have in our lives, including people that we love and learn from, the ability to start our company, and even “the air that fills our lungs”.
Originally posted on October 20, 2013 on the Engraving Amore blog.