How to be excellent at anything

10,000 hours to mastery

10,000 hours to mastery

Years ago I heard an interview with Paul McCartney. He was telling a story of a woman who wanted to play the piano but at middle age believed she had left it too late. His advice was a simple; start today and you’ll be an expert in ten years. That’s a powerful thought.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. He concluded that it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but how hard we’re willing to work to achieve it.

If we accept that, then we’re capable of things we didn’t believe possible.

This means it’s possible to build a skill in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past our comfort zone, rest and repeat. After 10,000 hours practice you’ll achieve expertise in any complex domain.

I used to believe that talent was driven by our genetic makeup. The theory of practice suggests that’s not the case. Genetics can help: the 200 cm basketballer, the 50 kg jockey or the musician with musically talented parents.

Swap the basketballer with the jockey and they will struggle! However, there are many ‘ordinary’ people who have made it through hard work and persistence. Likewise, talented people who aren’t prepared to work hard aren’t guaranteed success.

What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? It’s easy to say ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. That’s true but it’s not always possible to make your passion your vocation, it might not pay the bills!

This is where we find passion and balance. If you’re passionate about something it can be a great outlet and balance to your busy life. Something to look forward to, that’s satisfying and rewarding, that you can plan and enjoy. Ten thousand hours may be a lifetime but if you love it, who cares?


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4 Responses to “How to be excellent at anything”

  1. kel37blah Says:

    One of my favorite books! Its incredible how the 10,000 hour rule was seen in so many different areas. It is great to know that if we persist and continue to hone our craft that it is just a matter of time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. adamnrave Says:

    Hey, this is well said as usual WLBB. The 10,000 hours idea has been kicking around for some time, but it’s a truism. As for me, I can cook 2-minute noodles in 90 seconds, so I’m ahead of the curve.

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