sassysage's Blog

Sage’s Rage: 10,000 hours

Posted on: August 28, 2009

So right now I’m in the process of reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s very good and I would have been finished by now if I weren’t struck by a nasty summer cold. I‘ve heard his other books were really easy to read and thoughtful. He uses a lot of psychological studies to make points, so of course I wanted to see what the buzz was all about.

In Outliers he’s trying to show how the most talented, famous, rich, and/or impressive people have gotten to be where they are. His main point is that the old pull yourself up by your bootstrap story is a myth. People do not make it to the top by themselves. It’s a set up that involves talent of course but also where and when you are born. You can’t become king of computers like Bill Gates if you were born in 1850 (too early) or 2005 (too late)! He illustrated really clearly how Mr. Gates was born at the most perfect time to give him an edge in starting a new industrial revolution. It made me wonder, what trends was my birth era good for??

What I found even more interesting was this concept of 10,000 hours. Apparently experts agree that this is the ‘magic’ number that one needs to go from amateur to good to GREAT! 10,000 hours of practice distinguishes you as the best. That’s approximately 10 years of constant work. The Bill Gates example showed that because Mr. Gates became obsessed with computers in the 9th grade (he was fortunate enough to go to one of the only high schools in the county that had a computer) he got his 10,000 hours in by his early 20’s when he dropped out of Harvard (the part of the story that is often most told). When one hears the rags to riches story we miss the 10 years of sweat, toll and bleeding needed to make it. Not 10 years of thinking about it, 10 years of faking it, 10 years of half way getting the job done. 10 years of focus, determination and drive.

One thing I feel has been lost in our Society is the hard work ethic. I watch a lot of reality shows because they are entertaining. But I know it can make it seem like many of the ‘cast’ just got lucky. Most of them have not. What you don’t see are the hours they have put in to get to where they are, the many times they tried and didn’t get picked. The early rises to keep their businesses going. So ladies, the next time you want to give up on your goals or wonder why you haven’t made it to the level you want to be in your life. Add up those hours, where are you in the count? What are you doing with your 10,000 hours?

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