Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase 10 000 hours in his book “Outliers” and what he meant with that was that to achieve mastery in anything, you need at least 10 000 hours, no matter what and how much talent you possess.
As I get older I’m really starting to grasp this idea more and more. Looking at both my writing and my tennis, I’m beginning to realize the sheer amount of work I need to put in to keep improving. But this is not off-putting, rather the opposite, since I know that as long as I’m working hard and consciously trying to improve – I will.
There is obviously some debate going around whether 10 000 hours is enough for everyone to reach mastery. And then we also have the relativity of what “mastery” really is. It’s difficult to get around the fact that some are just more genetically predisposed to become great athletes, musicians, or whatever, than others.
But if you have passion for something, consistently improving should be one thing you strive for, even if you can’t reach the lofty goals of your heroes. Advancing your skills is a lot of fun on its own!
It’s a funny thing about learning something new. Some won’t settle for less than those 10 000 hours while guys like Tim Ferriss are happy to learn it “well enough”, fast enough.
I like to learn new things too, but I’m not as obsessed as Ferriss, even though the guy is a genius in many respects. I tend to stick to the hobbies I have: writing, tennis and some recreational guitar-playing. If I can make small advancements here and there, I’m pretty happy. I have big dreams, but reaching them takes mountains of work and every small step counts.
Is the mountain 10 000 hours? I think that depends, but the number makes us understand the sacrifice and dedication it takes. It’s a reminder that few things in life are free and if you want something you have to work hard for it. And if you’re going to work that hard for something, you should make sure it’s something you really want and love. That’s the question we should ask ourselves: what do I love to do enough for me to reach 10 000 hours with a smile on my face.
I think that question might be better than asking yourself whether it has business potential or not. Because if you really like this thing and you get really, really good at it, then everything is possible.
Go and get your 10 000 hours (or whatever that number is for you) now!
Jeff Goins wrote a good post about what made Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps a true champ. Read it here.