The 10000 Hour Rule & Superstardom!

John Baldessari with his repetitive mantra about art and practice.

Author and genius-conceptualizer Malcolm Gladwell says that that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.  This was one of the main premises of his book “Outliers” : 10,000 hours of deliberate practice makes a superstar.  Or, at the very least, 10,000 hours of practice is key to mastery and these hours are more important than “innate talent” in creating success.  Where and when you are born also has a profound effect on your level of success in his theory (and, this, friends, in your karma and you CAN change it!) but the 10,000 hours is a constant “rule” in his book of extreme success.   This is a fun- and very motivating- concept to think with…

Superstars in any field have complete command over their craft, and in Gladwell terms, they got so good by practicing the 10,000 hour rule.  In his explanation of the “10,000 hour rule” in Outliers, he provides vibrant examples: the Beatles played nearly 10,000 hours together in Germany before emerging as “The Beatles” that took the world by storm, Tiger Woods put in his 10,000 hours on the golf course before most of us can even drive a car with a permit,  Bill Gates was geeking out alone on a PC putting in his 10,000 hours and a kid… And so the story goes.

Doing The Math: 20 hours a week for 10 years… or 40 hours a week for 5 years… or 80 hours a week for two and a half years = expert status.  Rather than getting super-stunned and paralyzed by the enormity of these numbers, can you think in terms of how its worth persisting (even at the 20 or even 10 hour a week level) over time to develop a craft, skill or art? One will probably be less effective running 80 hour weeks for years, but there is definitive value in persistent practice.

now by doug aitken

Doug Aitken, NOW.

Perhaps Most People Quit Long Before 10,000:  I’ve been doing a ton of reading on this topic, and it seems that in general people get frustrated by their lack of luminosity after 5,000 hours or so, and failure to shine leads to quitting long before that 10,000th hour.  We are in a culture of NOW, NOW, NOW and if the payoff doesn’t come soon enough, its tempting to run to the next of a million options.  Dilettantes are not masters.  Also, if you are a pioneer in a field you will have less competition (then, say, if your goal is to be a Hollywood film star), so your time to start shining may require less hours, but the hours are key.  And yes, people get all sorts of lucky breaks.  Outliers tend to capitalize on the opportunities that pop up, maybe because they are continually creating upon their talents in their practice?

Andy Warhol at "work" being Andy Warhol.

Living Your Art: Here’s a thought about artistry and mastery… What if you live your art form? What if life or lifestyle or ideology is a part of your craft.  Take Andy Warhol for example.  He was an accomplished fine artist long before his meteoric rise to fame, but what people fail to see is that Andy Warhol mastered fame as an art form.  By living and breathing his iconography and his continual creation (be it partying or walking the streets with a camera continuously to creating a “Factory” where he lived and breathed the ethos he gee rated through his art, and on and on) as an artist Warhol mastered fame in record time.  Maybe it is worth LIVING our ideals more than just practicing them at set times?  For a yogi, maybe that’s periodic breathing practice throughout the day when NOT practicing yoga, or a filmmaker maybe capturing short videos on a flip camera or iPhone when running errands? You get what i’m saying… make it more a part of your life!  Incidentally, when I feng shui with my clients I design their homes and lives to make this infusion of “living your art” a reality on many levels; I have seen it create massive positive changes very quickly!

Would you be willing to put in 10,000 hours to master something and become an expert? Do you agree with the 10,000 hour rule? Have you ever tried it??? Let me know!

xoxo Dana

Atarah March 24, 2012 at 12:52 am

the number is pretty intimidating but practicing who you want to become and applying it to your everyday life makes it seem much more fun.

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ioanas96 April 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

Yes, I would be willing to put in 10,000 hours to master something if by this way I would be able to become an expert, but I don’t believe I can. I don’t agree with the 10,000 hours rule because you can master something in more or less time.
I’m not going to try it ever! It’s too difficult!
But I like the idea of trying… 🙂

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Maggie September 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm

It’s important to remember how critical it is to put in the time when you’re starting something new. Helpful advice-off to work on my craft now!

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Alexa October 14, 2012 at 12:13 am

I could be biased but i like to think this is fairly accurate. I was illiterate until almost ten, at which point I taught myself and had a twelfth grade reading level just two and a half years later. Perhaps I was making -up for lost time. Either way, in June of 2009 I lost my brother to a drug overdose but that trauma consequently catalyzed my writing career. I produced 6 consecutive books of poetry over the next two years; I lived, breathed, and ate in poetry. My life was writing and I evolved as did my writing over the process. It’s rather remarkable to see where I began compared to where I now am in terms of ability. Before I began my novel, I already had 10,140 hours of work in on my writing. I can tell you that I wanted to quit and many times along the way, and I did but then I remember how far I’ve already come. Crumpled papers littered my floor and I just about walked away. Then I remembered that’s what everyone else always does and I’ve never been like them, so why should I start now? I spent the last year and a half working on my first novel and have easily spent 80+ hours a week creating it. Once it was completed, the novel comprised of a 120,000+ word count, which is over 600 pages. I’m twenty-one and I am a writer; I have tried to be just about everything else before arriving at this conclusion. I have sacrificed weekends, parties, and social functions, which are supposed to be the “highlight” of my life. I made those decisions in pursuit of my passions. It’s all about how far you’re willing to go but most don’t even know what they want to begin with.

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