I have been reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell called The Outliers. This novel outlines the misconceptions on how society perceives success. The basic principle that Gladwell argues is that we (as a society) always view the successful, as the people who have struggled hard and were branded with an innate gift from birth. Now every chapter in the book is dedicated to argue a different perspective of how this view of the success may not be as simple as it seems. Now please feel free to read the novel as it is very interesting and filled with stories and statistics that really help drive Gladwell’s arguments but what I would like to hone in on in this post is what is called the “10,000 hour rule”.
To make things extremely clear this rule is simply a repeated observation with examples that back it up from a variety of different fields. The rule boils down to this: In order for an individual to master a certain skill, talent, or career, they must work at this specific task for a minimum of 10,000 hours. Now many of you reading are probably thinking this is a very arbitrary number but from the examples given it is a very understandable figure. The first example we can look at was The Beatles. their “opportunity” to perform for this amount of time came in the form of their invitation to play in Hamburg, Germany. This set the stage to allow them to perform for absolutely ridiculous chunks of time. Every night with a crowd that didn’t speak their language, for hours upon hours on end. If they didn’t get this break they would have never hit that 10,000 hour mark, they would have been playing one hour gigs as opposed to concerts that never seem to end. Another example that is worth mentioning is the story of Bill Joy a programmer who not only rewrote the Java language, and the UNIX language (which is the basis of windows/macs/etc.) but he also was one of the original founders of Sun Microsystems. This mans’ “opportunity” was the fact that he had access to a Computer Center that allowed for time-sharing (as opposed to the deathly slow punch cards) and 24 hour access throughout college. This served as the perfect working grounds to begin his mastery of programming.
What I am saying here and what Gladwell makes clearer is that it isn’t just their will to succeed but it is also their surroundings and opportunities that allowed them to make their impact on society. The novel views many other factors in the making of an “outlier” but what is very interesting is a conversation I had with a friend who read the book and subsequently was the one who recommended it in the first place. We were discussing this very topic of the time it takes to become amazing at something, and he brought up a point that opened up my eyes a social pattern I over looked when reading. He proposed the argument that because of the nature of the time that is needed to become so great at a task, many people in our society are crippled by their socioeconomic status from a young age, and because of that limitation they can not meet this criteria of proficiency (the 10,000 hours) in the long run. For example a child who has to work part time from the age of 15 until he graduates from college does not have the same time to “practice” a given task that he/she is fond of. All while another child that does not have to worry about that type of responsibility and can hone his/her efforts into said task. This can be seen in minority groups and poorer communities around the world. We are not saying that it is impossible to become successful under these conditions but it becomes more difficult, and there is more to overcome.
To become a master at a task you have to dedicate time, my only question now is, what should I be a master at :) Please share your views and stories in the comments I would love to hear from you all, and will reply diligently. Thank you all for reading.
As I start my first of 10,000 hours slow, Im sure to find some wisdom as I go…
I love It!!!!