Archive for February, 2012

10,000 hours


hard work ninjaI wrote a while back about mastering a craft. Any craft, as long as it is something for which we are passionate. The sense of accomplishment and the absolute thoroughness with which we understand something – so much that it becomes a part of us – has no equal.

I recently picked up the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The second chapter is one of the most simultaneously inspiring and terrifying parts of the book. The author makes the claim that in order to truly master an art or a craft, one must practice that specific task for 10,000 hours.

10,000 hours

Think about that. If you practice for eight hours a day, seven days a week, it will take you 1,250 days, which is 178.5 weeks, which is 3.4 years. 8 hours/day, 7 days/week. And don’t forget about social obligations – family, friends – and, oh yeah! You have to make money during this time. And did you want weekends off? You can do the math at this point because the lessons from Algebra 3 have abandoned me.

Gladwell asserts his claim through the examination of influential people throughout history, notably Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and The Beatles, and discusses how, through a combination of opportunity and drive, they achieved their 10,000 hours of practice before they achieved greatness. Even Mozart, he says, who started composing music at the age of six, didn’t truly become a master composer until he had been practicing for 10 years. And he didn’t produce his “greatest work” until he had been practicing for 20.


a master of one

Jeff Goins discusses this concept with one of his recent blog posts, Why Being a Jack of All Trades Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be. In the post, he references one of my favorite books, The 50th Law by Robert Greene, and its reference to the same principle:

The fools in life want things fast and easy – money, success, attention. Boredom is their great enemy and fear. Whatever they manage to get slips through their hands as fast as it comes in. You, on the other hand, want to outlast your rivals. You are building the foundation for something that can continue to expand.

To make this happen, you will have to serve an apprenticeship. You must learn early on to endure the hours of practice and drudgery, knowing that in the end all of that time will translate into a higher pleasure – mastery of a craft and of yourself. Your goal is to reach the ultimate skill level – an intuitive feel for what must come next.

That quote is amazing, and props to Goins for including it in his post. He then goes on to pose the question: Is it better to be a jack of all trades or pursue mastery? Eighty-three responses (as of now) flesh out the blog post with tons of interesting perspectives and ideas, all with their own merit for either side of the coin.

What are your thoughts? Do you want to put your 10,000 hours toward one goal, toward one task, or would you rather have a broader distribution of knowledge about many things? I think in part it depends on your profession and circumstance. But no matter what you do for a living, no matter your situation, I believe the readers of this blog (you) can find a way to get to 10,000 hours if you so choose. It just may take a bit longer than 10 years…

For myself, I choose mastery. I choose 10,000 hours. In a way I have to choose mastery. My craft demands no less and I would never think of under-delivering. People can see through crap. And my shit’s gonna be opaque.


motivational mondays – the amish project


A friend recently posted a link on my Facebook wall – I’m assuming it was in response to my post from a couple weeks ago: the importance of disconnecting, but I could be wrong :). The link took me to a story about a 24-year-old college student named Jake Reilly who embraced a technology-free lifestyle for 90 days, eliminating his cell phone, social media accounts and email. He dubbed these 90 days “The Amish Project,” and found his way to a more fulfilling lifestyle than he had ever known:

  • He forged a deeper relationship with his closest friends
  • He realized some of his closest friends weren’t so close after all
  • He revived a dying romance
  • Experienced higher levels of productivity
  • Got better grades
  • Got creative with ways he had fun – and had more of it
  • Started meditating

Think of how much time we waste mindlessly combing through online platforms, reading articles, watching YouTube videos and cyber-stalking. Most times when we engage in activities like that, we enter what my mentor calls “robot mode.” No thought required. Just mindless online navigation, reading or watching what other people wrote or made.

Maybe it’s time to wake up.
Maybe it’s time to come back to reality.
Maybe it’s time to experience real life once again.

If you’re looking for ways to change your life for the better, form good habits and eliminate bad ones, or just simply be happier, a trial run akin to Reilly’s Amish Project is a great way to start.