Monday, January 5, 2015

Success is 10,000 Hours

A friend from NY just visited and brought me the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink and The Tipping Point). It's not a new publication, the first print was in 2008, but it's one of those books I wish I'd read when I was much younger. In fact all teenagers should read this book. A big statement I know, but this will definitely remain on my shelf until DD is old enough to read it.

It's an easy read, annecdotal and fun. There's a wow factor on almost every page. And the whole way through I was relating the stories to me, my family, and our family history.

The hypothesis is that successful people may be hard grafters and very clever - in fact they are, but they were also in the right place at the right time and were given amazing opportunities. Yes they had to grab those opportunities and make them work and yes they had to work extremely hard. However, no one from Bill Gates to the Beatles (both used as examples in the book) did it without some extraordinary cosmic coincidences.

At first you might think it's disappointing that they didn't just go for it and make it happen themselves as we can't all be in the right place at the right time. However, you soon realize that this knowledge is a gift. Here some of the lessons I came away with...

1. It's good to know that there was a great deal of fate involved in the mega successes of the likes of Bill Gates and The Beatles, among others. It means that it's not entirely down to you - the universe might help and for mega success it needs to. Also, some of the fateful events were 'bad' things - prejudice, war, poverty, etc. We see how a negative situation can actually result in a positive kick up the ladder of success. For example, Jewish law graduates were excluded from the big established NY law firms in the mid-1900s so were forced to set up on their own. They were forced to become experts in fields the prestigious firms refused to handle and therein lay their path to success.

2. You can change your fate if you are aware of it. Many factors leading to success are a direct result of our upbringing, childhood influences and cultural background. For example, some cultures have a big PDI (Power Difference Index) which means people live in a hierarchy of elders, betters, bosses, versus youngsters, lessers, and employees. A more equal PDI, like in America, means people aren't afraid to ask for what they want, they know how to sell themselves, how to negotiate for themselves, and how to mix comfortably in any company. There are many other examples in the book and once you recognise your own position you can change it if it doesn't behoove you.

3. You don't have to be a genius. You just have to be clever enough. The most successful people in the world are not the ones with the highest IQs nor are they all graduates of Harvard and Oxbridge. Nobel Prize winners went to local colleges and have above average IQs. (An IQ of 100 is average. Some geniuses are off the scale at around 180-200 but they have no advantage on the success chart over good students with IQs of around 135.) So don't write yourself off if you constantly come/came in the above average but not top of your class.

4. This is my favourite. Along with all the accidents of birth, location, history, and culture; and having grabbed the opportunities proffered, successful people all put in about 10,000 hours of practice before they made the big time. 10,000 is 7 1/2 hours/day, 5 days a week, for 5 years. That means if your area of expertise is your full time job it will take you about 5 years to become an expert in your field. If it's a serious hobby and you can devote 10 hours a week to it, it will take you 20 years to become an expert. (See why I wish I'd read this years ago?). An hour a day at anything will make you an expert in about 28 years (if dementia doesn't get you first).

Of course most of us don't need to be the leading expert in anything, though it would be nice. We don't need to be concert pianists if we just want to enjoy playing the piano, We don't need to be simultaneous translators at the UN when we want to learn a foreign language. We don't need to compete with Google or Microsoft if we want to set up a successful tech business. We don't need to be Olympic athletes when we want to get fit and run a marathon.

See how everything just got much more accessible? That business could be successful enough in 2 1/2 years. That new hobby could be enjoyed on a reasonably high level after 5 years and at a great level after 10 years. An hour a day at something you are passionate about could get you more than proficient within the decade.

And most of us adults have already put in 10,000 hours of something - our careers, parenting, cooking, socializing, reading, driving, to name but a few skills. We are all experts at something already so why not anything else?

I want my daughter to read this book one day and see that success is only 10,000 hours of work away.


12 comments:

  1. I love your final statement about success only being about 10,000 hours of work away. Now, let me see, in what areas does my success lie!! Loved the article.
    Myra, from Winnipeg, Canada, where we are in the "deep freeze" with daytime temps of minus 35C (feels like minus 45C with the wind).

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  2. Perfect weather for being stuck indoors and getting your 10,000 hours done! :)

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  3. This is ace - and has a heck of a lot of truth in it (I feel). I absolutely benefited from some HUGE lucky chances when I was starting out as a journalist...no question about it.

    And, you know, I don't think you need quite that amount of time (if you have lucky stars around). No way was I a 'natural health expert' when I got my lucky breaks...I had to do a fair amount of 'fake it to make it'. :-) xxx

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    1. I think there is some ambiguity regarding what we consider to be success. There's Bill Gates type success and every other success down to... whatever. I agree that for the type of successes we want you don't need to conquer the world, just your little patch of it, and that might not take so many hours.

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  4. Looks really interesting, thanks for the tip. Will see if the library has it.

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    1. I hope it does, it's well worth the read.

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  5. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. It does sound like we need to be more aware of this!

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  7. Thanks for the review - I LOVE Malcolm Gladwell but haven't come across this one so I'll order it and give it to my teenagers once I've read it. Thanks and HNY! Lx

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  8. That book sounds right up my street. I have now made a shelf for my yoga/spiritual books to take them away from the other books. I am reconnecting with all that jazz xxx

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  9. Hi Rachel! I am glad you found a book that really resonates with you. The only problem with Malcolm Gladwell's ten thousand hour notion is that it's a complete myth invented - as far as I know - by him! There is plenty here: https://www.google.ie/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=the%2010%2C000%20hour%20myth that debunks that myth in case you're interested.

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    1. I am interested. Thank you I will definitely follow your link.

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