Monday, June 21, 2010

10,000 Hours

If you've read Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, then you already know that 10,000 hours is the amount of time it takes to become an expert at something.

To prove his point, he cites The Beatles, who for a period of time played 7 nights a week, 8 hours a night, in Hamburg, Germany, and who, consequently, were master musicians by their mid-twenties.

He also talks about Bill Gates, who started programming computers when he was in the 8th grade. In high school, he would sneak out of his house at night to spend the wee hours writing code during available timeshare hours at the University of Washington. All of this focus meant that by the time he reached his early twenties, he had mastered computer programming.

In a regular day-job, it takes 5 years to amass 10,000 hours. As a former manager, I can tell you that, in looking at a resume, that's a pretty solid cutoff for feeling like you're hiring an experienced person who's not going to need a lot of hand-holding to get his job done. Of course, you interview to make sure all the soft skills are there, and that the person is not a psycho, or a giant liar who made up everything on his resume (it happens) but on a totally technical basis, 5 years is a solid experience curve.

What does that mean, though, for activities outside the workplace?

I've been married, off and on, for 37 years and during that time I've cooked dinner an average of 5 times a week. Assuming I spend one hour per meal, that amounts to 1850 hours. So it's just as I suspected: I am unlikely to live long enough to become a good cook.

(So why, I would argue, should I expend any more effort on a goal I'll never reach?)

On the other hand, since 2001, when I started writing seriously, I've put in between 10 and 20 hours a week writing. Taking 15 hours/week as a conservative estimate, that means I've accumulated approximately 7000 hours.

3000 to go.


  1. Oh, I don't know. I'd say you're there.

  2. Yeah, you have passed your 10,000 hours with flying colors!!

  3. good point - but dont you have to be good at it to begin with - I am not saying that you are not a good writer but you do cite two examples - the beatles and bill gates and these two examples are also a sign of natural ability - natural ability that was honed to perfection...

  4. That makes me an expert in specialty metals, and my wife an expert on sleep...

  5. i have heard abotu that book so many times i must read it!


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