Are You Willing to Put in “Junk Miles”?

Aaron McHugh

Have you ever stopped to plot where you are on the continuum of the Law of 10,000 Hours?

Where are you in time, experience and performance? Are you at the beginning?  Are you in the middle or are you approaching arrival?

Are we willing to put in the “Junk Miles” to get there?

I have considered three categories of my professional craft and sized them up against this idea:

  • Sales and Marketing
  • Leadership
  • Writing

Sales and Marketing:  Arrived @10,000 hrs

I can say with confidence that I know what I have to offer and how rare it is.  I have almost two decades worth of experience including both the mistakes I’ve made and successes I’ve earned.

Leadership:  Half Way @5,000 hrs

Leading people in a formal workplace environment is still new to me.  I love being on the front of the boat steering the ship.  And I rely heavily on others around me to make sure I don’t steer it into a sand bar.  I have just enough to claim that I am not a novice but I am no master either.  More hours are needed.

Writing:  Just Beginning @200 hrs

Although I have been writing privately for years, writing in public is much different.  You have to take into consideration things like voice, tone, audience interest, and theme.  You receive feedback and comments and conversations at dinner parties about it.  I am putting in the miles and I am accepting that I have years ahead of me.

Plotting your place

Whether the 10,000 hour mark is mathematically exact or not is not important to me.  What is important is the principle that there are no shortcuts to mastery.

You have to put in the time and log the hours.

We have to embrace the premise that practice is required.

Tim Ferriss would disagree with the idea that it takes time to become an expert.  In his book The 4-Hour Workweek, a lot of which I love, he details how he had discovered methods and peripheral rules or inside tracks to success.  

In 1999, he became national champion in Chinese Kickboxing.  He found that he could win by shoving his opponents outside of the ring.

He won because he found a technical method to win by.

For me, I am not interested in achievement or success by way of technicality.

I’d rather be a genuine artist, writer, athlete, craftsman, sales and marketing guru.

Putting in “Junk Miles”

In running there is a term they use for logging foundational miles during a training program “Junk Miles”.  Although a depressing category name, they are fundamentally important when training for long distance running events e.g. Marathon (26.2 miles).

These miles are done at slower paces and are aimed at helping an athlete build up his aerobic endurance.  Mile after mile your body learns to perform, to process nutrition and your mental toughness increases as well.

If you attempt to skip these miles you will decrease your overall time on your feet.  In turn you will decrease your chances of meeting your goal or even finishing.

Our crafts require “junk miles” as well.

Unless we are looking for the loophole to success, logging hours, days, weeks, months and years helps us flush out our mistakes and misjudgment.

Mile after mile, as we do the work, refine our approach, learning from our errors, we become like a seasoned athlete ready to take on a race.

I meet a lot of people who want to become runners.  I meet very few people who want to put in the miles in order to become a runner.


What area of your life have you achieved reaching the 10,000 hour mark?

11 thoughts on “Are You Willing to Put in “Junk Miles”?

  1. I’ve only been thinking about the 10,000 hours rule related to my career. Thanks for extending that to other areas that I want mastery in–fly fishing, carpentry, writing, music.

    I agree with you on Tim Ferris. I like that he’s encouraging people to remove clutter from their lives and focus on what’s important, but he does overextend that into shortcuts sometimes. Awareness of that can pave the way to balance in your choices.

    The last time I ran Hood to Coast, I didn’t put in the junk miles and paid for it!

    1. Kurt-
      Thank you for weighing in on the conversation. Yes, I love the idea of extending this concept of mastery and excellence to both work and play. And like you, I love a lot of Tim Ferris’ no-nonsense approach to fluff.
      Love to hear more about Hood to Coast. That is a great race.

  2. I’m perpetually trying to thwart the “junk miles”. I’ve run butt up against the need to get it right the first time, often falling into a tailspin when that just didn’t happen ie. 90% of the time. What has helped? Personal grace. Grace with myself. Just letting up on the pressure on myself. Relieving some of the “not good enough” by letting go of irrational results, allowing more time for relationship. As I head into years that feel weightier than the past and projects that feel more like purpose than productivity, I am so grateful for the roads I’ve travelled. The ones ahead seem much clearer.

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