The writer Malcolm Gladwell fascinates me. He causes me to really think about topics I may not even have considered prior to reading his ideas. His 2008 book Outliers, caused some controversy (imagine that!) when he said that, “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.”
A summary of his theory is that, to be successful in something, natural talent counts and good luck and positive circumstances play a big role too. But the key is consistent practice for a long period of time….10,000 hours as a matter of fact.
Facing some of his critics who misconstrued his writing to mean that you can be anything if you spend 10,000 hours practicing it, he was quoted in Business Insider on June 2, 2014, as saying, “The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.”
We’re all busy and 10,000 is a big number. To put it in perspective, there are 8,760 hours in a year. So even if we went without sleep for a whole year and focused solely on this expert status 24/7, we wouldn’t have enough hours. The number might seem insurmountable to some people.
But consider where you’ve already put in hours toward your passion over the past month, year, decade, or lifetime. You’re likely well on your way to that magic number without realizing it. Want to become a master chef? How long have you been cooking already? If you have considered becoming a professional gardener in your retirement, tally up the years you’ve spent making your own yard a showpiece.
And what if you have a natural talent for something but have left it as an unrealized passion still inside you? Well, an hour a day for the next 27.5 years gets you just over 10,000 hours. And of course, that means two hours of practice a day will take you less than 14 years. Even if you have a day job, that is doable.
I doubt that many of us are looking to be recognized as a world-famous expert in anything. But it’s important to practice our craft and help others along our way to that magic number of greatness.