10,000 hours

outliers-the-story-of-successThat’s what it takes if you want to master something. Almost anything I guess.

This comes from a new book written by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers: The Story Of Success. It’s actually being released today and it sounds like one I need to get a hold of.

From the excerpt I read, Gladwell seems to be saying that there are two things at work when it comes to success: time and a bit of luck. Luck is one of those things you can’t really control. Time is one you have a certain degree of control over. You’d think that genius would be one of the factors that contributes to success, but Gladwell digs into “genius” and suggests it’s not as much of a factor as you might think.

I’ve read Gladwell’s other books: The Tipping Point and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I like his writing and ideas. He’s definitely not one to stick to conventional thinking.

We’ve always heard “practice makes perfect” and according to Gladwell seems to be the case.

This idea – that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

I can’t say I’ve spent 10,000 hours mastering anything. Sleep maybe. I’ve found a career now that I feel I can stay with for the rest of my life, and I’m well into my journey to 10,000 hours. I’ve had some luck along the way too, but some might say that’s positioning.

If you were to put in eight hours per day mastering any skill, it would take you 1,250 days to hit 10,000 hours. That’s about three and a half years. Every day. How many of us can devote a full eight hours every day to anything? Even at work your day is broken up by lunch, coffee, meetings, etc. How much of your day is real work where you can master your skill of choice?

Let’s say you get three hours per day really mastering your skill. That translates into 3,333 days, or about 9 years. But, that’s every single day. Seems like a big task, doesn’t it? I have tried to teach my kids that hard work matters more than genius, and I hope they’re learning that. Of course you need to have a normal level of intelligence, but after that, it’s hard work that really counts.

I think mastery is a goal worth working towards, whether it’s work-related or some other pursuit like art, music, writing, carving, etc. So, what skill are you working to master with your 10,000 hours?

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If I were to picture my ideal life, I’d be sitting in some far off land, sipping a coffee in a café, my backpack at my side, camera around my neck, motorcycle at the curb, pondering my next stop or maybe madly typing away on my laptop about my latest adventure.

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