Formula for Excellence: Practice for 10,000 Hours

by Joe Plemon on October 22, 2009

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Creative Commons License photo credit: graymalkn

Author Malcolm Gladwell, in his new book “Outliers”, shares his research that very few people achieve excellence without putting in at least 10,000 hours of preparation. His research dispels the notion that people can be at the top of their games with talent alone. Gladwell states, “The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.” In fact, Gladwell says that some psychologists state bluntly, “Talent doesn’t exist.”


  • Bill Gates, for example, had free access to a main frame computer as a young teenager. This free access, however, was only from 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM and the computer was located 2 miles from his home. With no driver’s license, Bill snuck out of the house every morning at 1:30 AM and walked the two miles so he could learn computer language for four hours before walking the two miles back home.
  • Long before the British Invasion, the Beatles were the house band at a house of prostitution for eight hours a night, seven nights a week for months on end.
  • Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are both renowned for their work ethics. Tiger was a golf prodigy when he was only two years old, but how far would he have gone had he not consistently outworked his peers? Jordan, as many know, did not make the basketball team as a 14 year old. But he worked and worked to become possibly the greatest player ever.

So What is The Problem?

The problem is that we live in an instant gratification society. We have been spoiled by instant messaging, cell phones and microwaves. College graduates expect high dollar jobs simply because they have a piece of paper called a diploma. We believe that if we have a bit of talent, we should succeed first try. And when we don’t, we decide that life just isn’t fair. Far too often, talented people simply quit because they aren’t ready to put in their 10,000 hours.

Follow Your Passion

The message is clear: it takes time to reach excellence. How about you? Are you investing your time in a job you hate? If so, what new opportunities would you be excited about? Because it takes 10,000 hours to be one of the best at any particular calling, the calling needs to be something you are passionate about. Many studies show that those who pursue their passions will eventually succeed monetarily, even if there are no doors currently wide open for that skill set. Why? We simply find time to do the things we love. And finding those 10,000 hours to practice your passion will put you in a world class status. Those doors will open for the elite, and that will be you.

This is Good News

Actually, this is an encouraging piece of information. Whatever excuses you might have been making will simply not hold water. Even if you were born with average talent with average IQ in an average family with average opportunities, all you need to do is discover your passion and work 10,000 hours at it in order to be on the top of your game. In the process you will pass those who seemed to have all of the advantages but aren’t willing to pay their 10,000 hours of dues. The good news is that anyone can excel. That includes you.


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