Walking down West 15th street at 8:50am the other day, I watched a big NYC street sweeping truck rumble down one side of the street. That side of the street was clear of cars because of New York’s alternate-side parking regulations: it’s illegal to park on the north side of 15th street from 8:30 to 10:00am on Mondays and Thursdays.
So far, nothing remarkable going on here.
Then, within seconds of the street sweeper passing by, three cars, as if on cue from some invisible maestro, swung simultaneously to the other side of the street, with the grace and unison of synchronized swimmers. I’d never seen cars do ballet before.
The sign said no parking until 10am, but at 8:51, they’d moved to the other side of the street. Were they all ready to wait another 69 minutes, or do they know that once the street sweeper passes by, they’re not getting a ticket?
The exact point is that I don’t know the answer here but they do. Why? Because they’re the real insiders, who care the most (about that parking spot), who know how the rules are played, who understand all the constraints and limitations and where rules can be bent.
There are a lot of rules that are in place for good reasons (we need clean streets), lots of norms that tell us what we can and cannot do that are a great guide for our actions. And there are those that aren’t.
Figuring out which is which takes time.
This is why there are no shortcuts, why mastery takes 10,000 hours, why people who seem to bend the world to their will soon discover, once they’ve done it once, that they can do it again and again.
(It’s also why caring the most matters. Whether those folks in the three cars waited there for 5 minutes or 69 minutes, they got those parking spots for free for the next three days.)
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For those who liked yesterday’s post about Kevin Kelly, his essay from the book is available on Kevin’s blog.