It takes four years

Photo by Max Saeling on Unsplash

Ready for a huge, sweeping generalization?

Okay, here ya go…

It takes four years to get ‘good’ at any one thing.

It’s true — I’m convinced.

By ‘good’, I mean to develop a grounded sense of competency in it. To surpass beginner-level status and be an intermediate professional at something.

The number four is one of those perennially cyclical numbers. Like the number seven in the Bible, it’s one of those numerical life cycles that just… is.

Think about it... High school. Most degree programs. Leap years. The Olympics. Seasons in a year. Elections. All of these are in four-year cycles.

I’d say the four-year rule applies to creative and commercial pursuits as well. Sure, anyone can hang a shingle these days. From pastors to politicians to consultants and web designers.

But I’ve found the real magic happens at or around the 4-year mark. And I’m speaking from experience.

  • I didn’t start writing really good web copy for people until the four-year mark.
  • I’ve been blogging regularly for three and a half years and am just feeling my feet underneath me.
  • I was a total idiot for the first four years of my daughter’s life when it came to being a dad.

It takes. Four. Years.

(I’m convinced.)

The question is — who can wait that long in today’s western world of instant gratification?

Why not just give me the Udemy course and let me marathon it so I can hurry up and call myself an expert (and start charging a premium for it)?

Ugh… This kind of frantic, me-first behavior never leads to a lasting, wholehearted career.

I say we need to start taking the old-school approach. It serves us to settle into things. To find a seasoned four-year-plus mentor and be an apprentice (if even an unofficial one). To take the time to sit with things and become really good at them (especially before charging a premium for them).

We’ve been doing it this way for hundreds of years. But our modern hubris has gotten in the way of old time-tested cycles such as this.

Give yourself four years. Plan and set your expectations accordingly.

Who knows? Maybe your four years start today.