Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The 10,000 Hour Rule

A man holds a piece of paper while he gives a speech.I am in the middle of reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  It’s a non-fiction story about success – specifically he explores why he thinks certain people excel far beyond the average.  (In statistics, something that is far outside the norm is an “outlier”.)  He talks about the Beatles and Bill Gates, Michael Jordan and Chris Langan.  His main objective seems to be to say – yes there is talent, but there are other influences like seized opportunities, special experiences and particular upbringing that has been handed down for generations.  He tells a number of memorable stories to make his points.  Some critics say that’s all his writing is good for – a good entertaining story.  Well, it worked with me and got me thinking. 

Early in the book, Gladwell talks about IQ and that after a certain threshold it really doesn’t how high your IQ is.  There are other factors after that threshold that separate people – like imagination and work ethic.  He said it’s like saying that the taller you are the better you are at basketball.  Yes, someone who is 6’6” is generally better at basketball than someone who is under 6’, but about 6’6” versus 7’?


In the same chapter, Gladwell says once talent is established that time invested in learning, practicing, exploring is crucial to becoming “world-class”.  The threshold there is 10,000 hours.  In looking at violinist, studies found children who started at the same time learning the violin and made a career in music were separated by the number of hours they practiced until employment.  The virtuosos were 10,000 hours, the good musicians were 8,000 hours and the music school teachers were 4,000 hours.


10,000 hours is 20 hours a week for 10 years.  That’s daunting to say the least.  No wonder those of us out of our childhood think that learning something well is out of our grasp.  Yet since I turned 35 years ago, I’ve been starting up with all the things that I always wanted to do.  I never expect to be world class at the level of Bill Gates or the Beatles.  But what makes my head spin, is considering what could happen if I could give 10 hours a week for 10 years that’s 5000 hours – or even 5 hours a week for 15 years is almost 3800 hours?


I can’t change the talent, I can’t change the upbringing or the past.  I can only work with what I have right now and what I can control is what I invest my time in.


What would you spend 10,000 hours on?

18 comments:

KaiteM. said...

I'd love to think i could spend 10,000 hours on something but even tho i usually start out very enthusiastically i often (mostly)fall by the wayside because i see something else i would like to explore instead. But you've got me thinking, so i'll work on it. How about 7 hours a week for 10 years, that is from now till i turn 70. An hour a day, even that's scary. Kaite

Sue Schwarz said...

Wow, Jennifer, that is amazing, thanks for sharing. Sure takes the fire out of all the excuses I have for not getting things done.

Thanks for sharing.

Sue S

Theresa said...

He's been on a couple of shows on TV and NPR I think.
I caught some of his interview and it was fascinating.
At the time, I thought it would be an interesting read and now my interest is peaked enough to put it on the book list. Thank you for information!
Hmm, 10,000 hours is a very large chunk of time indeed. I'd have to really think on what I would put those kind of hours on.

Jennifer said...

K - You know it may not be just one action, like weaving, or beading, knitting or quilts that you spend your 10,000 hours on - it could be something that is more of an overarching theme - like design, color theory, patience with tedious patterns! I bet there's something all your work has in common.

Sue - I'm glad you liked the post - I'll look forward to seeing what you do with the investment of time!

Theresa - I actually am listening to the book on my MP3 player - that's another option while you weave. He also has two others - The Tipping Point and Blink - that I've "read" with sudiobooks. I also look forward to hearing about you 10,000 hours - of course farm life could be yours!

charlotte said...

Thank you for a very interresting post, it really made me think. I believe it's never too late to learn something - and it's never too late get good at it.

Jennifer said...

Charlotte - that's exactly what I think to!

Sue Schwarz said...

me too, and I just had my 68th birthday this summer. How about 10 hours a week for 10 years. heh heh.

I have recently returned to tapestry after several years. We will see how it goes.

Jennifer said...

Sue - you know we can only work with the time we have - one never knows how long you've got! It will be interesting to see if you approach tapestry differently now and what that creates! Do you blog? I couldn't find a link? i'd love to see what you are working on - there are so few of us that are just tapestry!

Theresa said...

LOL, I could spend 10k hours thinking what I would want to spend that time on! When I was younger it could have been riding or music in that order. As I've grown older I've diversified. Devoting less hours to perfection of one thing and more to being proficient in a number of skills, some greater than others. :-)
I couldn't narrow myself down, just couldn't, so let me say, the art of keen observation and curiosity would best suit my hours. Be it for science, nature, human nature, arts and so on. I'm sure I've skirted this. ;-)

Jennifer said...

Theresa, I struggle to narrow myself down also for 10,000 hours, but then I wonder about splitting it up and allowing myself solid work, but not perfection as you say. I also think about what I could achieve before retirement and use that solid base for retirement...

K Spoering said...

I would bet I have spent 10,000 hours weaving tapestries! Especially if design time counts. But the answer that jumped in my mind to your last question, "What would you spend 10,000 hours on?" was writing. It surprised me! Especially since I haven't done any writing this past year!

Jennifer said...

Kathy - it let you leave a comment!!! I bet you have spent 10,000 weaving tapestries since I would call you "world-class". Isn't it funny thought what comes first to mind with a question? Maybe for now you can write Booker stories!

Life Looms Large said...

This is a very apropos topic for me right now because I'm thinking about what I want my schedule to be like this fall and winter.

Like Theresa, I'm definitely a generalist, not a specialist.....and that's definitely a mindset - and a way that my brain works. So narrowing myself down to a few things does not come naturally at all to me. (And I'm sure you can tell that from my blog!!)

I'm curious about this book, because in my software career I worked with a group of people for probably 10 years - so many of them would have put in their 10,000 hours writing software during that time. I'm not completely sold on this 10,000 hours theory....but I haven't read the book, so that's probably not fair for me to say. My observations of that group of people and my own generalist nature make me think there might be other factors involved too.

Maybe I should read the book!!

Sue

J. Austin - said...

Hi, I was catching up and caught your post about how long it takes to do your blog. I've been using free software for mine that makes it MUCH easier to format, esp the photos. It's called Windows Live Writer. You can do your post offline. You can easily make the text wrap on the right or left around the photo and other formatting stuff. It did take a little while to learn how to use it, but it's much better than using blogger.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Janet - Lyn Hart also mentioned Windows Live Writer and i actually plan to blog about that - It's cut my time down considerably!

Sue - You are right just doing 10000 hours doesn't guarentee anything. Like what is done in those 10000 hours means something - like how much the time pushed one to learn more. And of course - there is the whole gambit of taking advantage of opportunities and being born in the right era. What I was mainly thinking was what about all of those different factors can I control - what I invest my time in. Then if the special chance comes and I muster up the courage to sieze it, I'll have the skills ready. If it never comes, I'd better have chosen something I'll love anyway! Right or wrong - it's food for thought on who I want to be.

Sue Schwarz said...

I don't blog, could be that is a future endeavor, but right now, I am a fan of all the wonderful weavers who share their time online. I find it fun and educational and feel a connection with a lot of the ones I read regularly, some I have met, and some not yet. I love Booker and your story of Shadow and learning from the weaving and sharing that Tommye and others are so generous to share. I have ordered the Gladwell book. I stole 'Blink' from my grandaughter and may have to buy another for her, since I cannot find it. Found it interesting also.

Future Blogger, Sue Schwarz

Jennifer said...

Well Sue - I'm glad to meet you!

Sue said...

Thanks, same here. Maybe someday we can sit down with a cuppa something.

Maybe my grand daughter can help me with the blog thing when she comes for a visit.