Saturday, February 20, 2010

Good Lessons: 10,000 Hours

In his book, "Outliers", Malcom Gladwell introduces the idea that it takes 10,000 hours for someone to become proficient at something. He goes on to say that these 10,000 hours must be comprised of really focused, perfectly practice hours with constant improvement in weak areas and good coaching. This helps explain why pro athletes are so good. They spend countless hours practicing from child hood with coaching that gets better and better all focused on improving their game.

For a lot of people (and me for a while) the 10,000 hour idea seemed like a far reaching thing that I would never be able to manage. However, if you break it down you can see something a little brighter.
A normal work week is 40 hours in a normal work year of 50 weeks, so 2000 hours a year meaning it would take 5 years for your to be good at that job or aspiration. If you think about it this way it explains why your boss or mid level managers (if they're smart) are so good at what they do.
But who really works 40 hours a week, no one I know. So lets use 60 hours a week which gets you to 3000 hours a year meaning it only takes 3 years and 4 months to become proficient.

To me, 3.3 years does not seem like that long of a time and shows that you can become proficient at many things over your career / lifetime. The scary thing I think about is what exactly is it that I need to become proficient at to be successful. I mean, there is no way to "practice" business, your either doing it or your not. Also, for someone like me who doesn't know what they want to do exactly, does it mean that I've already made missteps in picking up skills I'll need? To that question, I'll have to say negative since I think that my first job has definitely been a valuable training ground. Also, the side projects I'm working on will surely help me fill out my more entrepreneurial skill set as well as my next job, hopefully.

So, I say all of that to say to people two things: 1. Don't be put off by 10,000 hours. It's a long time, but its not impossible and you didn't have to start when you were 5 like the pros. 2. However, don't underestimate the fact that to get to the 10,000 you have to constantly be working and improving. Yet, once you start honing in on what your passion is that shouldn't be too hard and you'll be an expert in no time.

No comments:

Post a Comment