Sunday, February 7, 2010

The 10,000 Hour Rule

Several times after playing a gig, someone has come up to me and said, "Oh, you're so talented." My response to them us usually, "No, I'm not talented. I just found something I enjoyed and stuck with it until I accidentally got good at it." The more I think about it, though, the more I find my statement to be true for all success.

I recently read the first half of a book (because the Orem Library wanted it back. I hate due dates) called The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. One of the things that piqued my interest was when he discussed the 10,000 rule. In a nutshell, what they've found for people to become an expert at something is that it takes 10,000 hours. At first I thought, "That's all?" Then I started doing some math, which is pretty challenging for a music major who can only count to four.

In the book, Gladwell mentions a study of musicians (that got my attention)where they wanted to see how much time it took studying the instrument to become 'world class'. Now, we've always been told that to be good at music, you have to practice a lot. Well, what they found is that, surprise, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice. This is nice in that now we have a quantity and not just some vague 'practice lots' advice, but it is also daunting when you figure out what it takes to get to the magic 10,000.

Okay, here's my math, as faulty as it may be. I figured that by the time I graduated from high school, I had about 2000 hours. Some of these kids in the music study were reaching 10,000 by the time they were 20. Not me. To do that, they had to get to the point where they were practicing 6 to 8 hours a day as teenagers. I then figured that while I was in college as a music major, I was putting in about 1000 hours a year (probably more, but I was doing a conservative estimate). It took me all of my high school and college years to finally hit 10,000 by my late 20's.

Of course, this does not only apply to music. Gladwell also brings up a few examples of other experts who had put 10,000 hours into their study by the time they were in their early 20's. Anyone ever heard of some dude named Bill Gates?

Okay, time for more math (if my brain doesn't explode). In the last four years, I estimated that I've put in 2000 hours into writing. I'm not sure how much from before between high school and college, but I probably have a few thousand hours there. But I don't think I've hit 10,000 yet, and I definitely don't feel like an expert at writing. To break down these last four years, I figured I was doing about 10 hours a week for 50 weeks (my year only has 50 weeks because I like nice, round numbers without those extra fiddly-bits attached). So that means 500 hours a year. To hit 10,000 hours at that rate would take 20 years. (depressed yet?)

Actually, I think this is good news. Talent has nothing to do with it. What trumps talent is perseverance. Additionally, though, whatever field we want to become an expert at, we need to enjoy it. It would be more like a prison sentence to spend 10,000 hours doing something we didn't like. I feel blessed that I've found things I enjoy and don't mind putting in the time. I guess that's part of our life's mission is to find what we love and can put the time into. We can all become experts.

1 comment:

Rebecca Talley said...

Great post. I'm going to try to add up my hours . . . .