Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Got 10,000 Hours?

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. 
It's the thing that makes you good." 
- Malcolm Gladwell

I get asked from time to time how long it takes to become an established artist. Not an easy question. If you have ever wondered how long it takes to master a skill, you should read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He puts forth the idea that although there are many other factors that lead to success in any given undertaking, including talent and opportunity, the number one factor in becoming a "genius" or "master" of your craft is hard work. In fact, 10,000 hours of hard work, says Gladwell.

An innate gift and a certain amount of intelligence are important, but what really pays is ordinary experience. Bill Gates is successful largely because he had the good fortune to attend a school that gave him the opportunity to spend an enormous amount of time programming computers-more than 10,000 hours, in fact, before he ever started his own company. He was also born at a time when that experience was extremely rare, which set him apart. The Beatles had a musical gift, but what made them the Beatles was a random invitation to play in Hamburg, Germany, where they performed live as much as five hours a night, seven days a week. That early opportunity for practice made them shine. Talented? Absolutely. But they also simply put in more hours than anyone else.

The answer to the above question "how long will it take?"  is linked to how you answer the question "how hard are you willing to work?". After reading Outliers, I did the math and if you dedicate your time to your craft at a rate of forty hours per week, you can reach that 10,000 hour threshold in 4.8 years. At four hours per day, it will take you nearly ten years. 

No wonder that when you look at it, there really are no overnight success stories. Some people are just lucky you say. In the right place at the right time.  As professional golf champion Gary Player once said, "The more I practice, the luckier I get".

No comments: