How long does it take for skills to develop? Seems like six years to me.

I’ve watched a decent amount of shows. I’ve worked a number of jobs. I’ve learned a good amount of new skills. All in all it seems to me that six years is about the correct timeframe to get really good at something. After that, you need to start looking for new things to add to your repertoire.

When I reference this against the work that I’ve done, I find with regularity this to be a common interval of time to do something. Maybe it has to do with our brain’s ability to rewire itself and the time it takes to do that. Maybe it has to do with the amount of data/expertise we need to gather to “train” ourselves to get skilled at a craft. I’m not 100% certain there.

What reminded me of this is my wife and I have been rewatching Seinfeld on Netflix. One thing that I noticed is that as season 6 was came around, there was some next level stuff. They started referencing and connecting to earlier skits in the show more often. They started having more complex themes that extended over multiple episodes that didn’t exist in previous seasons. There was more subtlety in the humor. They were hitting their stride and moving to the next level of complexity.

Consistently moving up to the next level of complexity in your craft means building on skills over time leads to doing incredible things over long careers. As I wrote in, How I Destroyed Everything by Lacking Patience, Frank Gehry exhibits this. When he started in Architecture he had to get good at producing drawings that could be constructed. Then he had to get better at being creative. Then he had to get better at selling unique projects. Then he had to get better at managing teams. I’m sure there are other skillsets in there he had to develop too, each taking a number of years. That’s why he didn’t reach the pinnacle of his career until he was in his 60s.

Are all of these skills developed in series? No, it’s possible you are developing them in parallel with other skills at the same time, but the world is complex. Being patient to develop a unique skillset that opens up opportunities for you is in itself a skill, and it too takes time to master.

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