Sunday, October 11, 2009

10,000 Hours to Success

What are you an expert at? In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about what factors contribute to the success of wildly successful people, like Bill Gates. One of the crucial elements contributing to success according to Gladwell is 10,000 hours invested in doing. He attempts to prove that this is the threshold of time needed for practice and/or experience that tips the balance. For example, he describes how, in the early 60s, the Beatles played all night every night at a night club in Hamburg, Germany so that by the time they returned to Liverpool, they had played together for over 10,000 hours. They were pros. Gladwell shows where Bill Gates got his 10,000 hours of computer programming experience by the time he was in his early twenties. Doing the math, to get the 10,000 you’d need to do about 20 hours per week for 10 years or 40 hours for 5 years (hope I got that right—I’ve only put in six and a half hours at math).

Gladwell’s 10,000-hour theory is compelling. He cites a study done with musicians. Those who became brilliant professional pianists had put in the 10,000 hours at a fairly young age, while those who were teaching music or playing for pleasure while holding down another job had not met the 10,000-hour threshold.

If we buy Gladwell’s theory that to become an expert in something we need to have 10,000 hours of experience, I find it interesting to consider what that makes me an expert at. There are not many things I have spent 10,000 hours doing. Sleeping. Reading. Doing laundry perhaps. (I may have put in 10,000 hours laundering diapers back in the day.) Seriously, I would say I’ve invested that 10,000 in writing, and also in grant writing as a separate expertise, and definitely in active parenting (I mean real parenting, not just being a parent). Ron has put in the 10,000 studying music, more specifically R&B and Soul. What about you? Where have you invested your 10,000 hours?

No comments: