Idealism, Life, Philosophy

Ten Thousand

I think I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve come to the conclusion that we all have too much to lose to be outstanding. I’ve been listening to Macklemore lately and the song 10,000 hours came on. Coincidentally, I currently received the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell from a good friend.

Malcolmore or... Mackle Gladwell... YOU decide!

Malcolmore or… Mackle Gladwell… YOU decide!

Malcolm’s book and Macklemore’s song reference a popular expertise theory that suggests that the greats of our world didn’t become great just because they won some kind of genetic lottery. Rather, they became great as a result of hard work, grit and diligence.

The study suggests that in order to become an expert at something, it takes 10,000 hours of practice. That’s an unusual time statement. It’s annoying. It’s like a mother saying her child is 29 months old… He’s TWO you freak!

Yep, she's only 238 months old! That's why we DIDN'T buy the Chemistry Pop-Up book this year.

Yep, she’s only 238 months old! That’s why we DIDN’T buy the Chemistry Pop-Up book this year.

Anyway, a different study suggests that as numbers become bigger they become less comprehensible. So, I like to break things down. Let’s say that I want to become a great writer. According to the 10,000 hour theory I would have to practice for a little over a year straight. And when I say straight, I mean I would literally need to be writing 24 hours a day. That’s impossible. Let’s break that down a bit more. If I were to divide that time into two years, I’ll be great by just practicing 12 hours a day. Still a bit egregious, eh? Well, let me put it in terms that I can understand.

If I consider the theory to be correct. I am saying that if I were to devote my time to picking up a new skill right this moment and I vowed to practice 2hrs everyday, I would become great after 13.7 years. That’s a long time. That’s quite a commitment. Worth it? Yes. But can most of us do that? No.

My day today: Wake up at 5am, go to work, work till 3pm, need to go to the grocery store to buy food for dinner, cook dinner, mow the yard, exercise, eat dinner, and finally relax at about 8pm when all is said and done. The last thing I want to do is hone my craft at that time. I’m exhausted! Is exhaustion just an excuse? Absolutely, but it’s a valid one.

Then, I imagine how realistically it would be for me to become great when I think of potential children. I don’t have time to become great when I’m feeding my kids. They can’t get neglected just because I have a passion.

Well, I hope someday I will become a great writer. But, until then, I’ll just keep putting my nose to the grindstone when I can and maybe after 15 years I’ll get a call.

The point of this post wasn’t to be pessimistic. Actually, quite the contrary. Knowing that greatness is within my reach makes me just want to practice more! Even if it takes forever, I have to try!

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2 thoughts on “Ten Thousand

  1. To be fair, Gladwell also mentions most of the greats who made it started as pre-teens when they DID have several hours of leisure per day, for a decade or more. As an adult, it’s reasonable to extend that theory by 5 to 10 years. Remember that this is virtually TOTAL mastery of a craft–not just being a professional. It also helps to be born in a certain time frame (e.g., specific months of a slew of years). This latter part I think you and I managed to happily inhabit with obvious examples. Great post!

    • Brandon says:

      Very true! I think I was just writing about how daunting the task seems and why people probably find it hard to chase after their passions. I can’t wait to finish the entire book and discuss it with you!

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