10,000 Hours to Be…

What qualities does one need to be successful?  Do great entertainers, math geniuses, great writers or leader possess some extraordinary quality different from the rest of us mere mortals?  Are they born with something special, while the rest of us are doomed to live our lives in mediocrity?  How about the silver-spoon theory—is being born to rich, powerful, beautiful people the only way to be rich, powerful and beautiful yourself?

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell analyzed what it is that leads the lucky few to reach the pinnacle of success.  Gladwell references two interesting studies, one conducted in the 1920s by Lewis Terman, of Stanford University, and another by K. Anders Ericsson, of Berlin’s Academy of Music, in the 1990s.

By following the lives of nearly 1,000 gifted children, Termin sought to prove that one’s above-average native intelligence quotient—IQ, would predispose one to becoming important later on in life.  However, while a higher IQ may give us greater innate abilities, the results of the study showed that IQ was no predictor of success.

The premise behind K. Anders Ericsson’s study, was to understand what it takes to become an outstanding musician.  We can call this, the Mozart legacy.  Here again, the theory is that child prodigies are born with talent to which most of us can never aspire.  It turns out that Ericsson and his colleagues were unable to find any naturally talented musicians.  Instead, they found the amount of time aspiring musicians invested in learning their craft and practicing their art was in direct proportion to their ability to demonstrate musical genius.  WOW, who would have guessed—those who worked the hardest had the greatest talent.  It turns out the number of hours necessary to be a world-class musician amounted to roughly 10,000 hours. 

This is the central theme of 10,000 Hours to Be Me.  I believe, investing 10,000 hours into something is more about the character attributes of commitment, perseverance, resilience, and focus.  The problem is that putting 10,000 hours into any one goal arguably means I must let go of so many other potentially, interesting distractions out there.  How often have I said to myself, I’m going to have free time this weekend, so I will do XXX?  Then when Monday comes around, I can hardly remember what I did with my time.  What I do know, is that I did nothing to move toward my dreams!

Most of the time, what I may be giving up is as important as doing housework, reading a novel, watching an episode of the Closer (OK, so I probably won’t give up Kyra Sedgwick), or some other activity that is more likely about avoidance than doing what matters most to me.  According to Stephen Covey, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1990).

Not easy!  So for 2012, my focus is to pay attention to what matters most in my life and see how many hours I am choosing to devote to those priorities.  As a friend of mine noted in her blog—work, family, and taking care of our physical needs are important and take up much of our day.  However, there is time beyond those activities that we can spend doing what we love.

I look forward to hearing the wisdom of others as I move along this journey.


Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers:  The Story of Success.  New York:  Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

Leave a comment


  1. Great first post!

  2. It will be interesting to see how this blog develops. I know our blog has changed completely from the first vague design ideas in our heads. We’ll be looking forward to how your thinking responds to comments and the wordpress world.

    • Thanks so much for reading. I’ve enjoyed you and your wife’s (and daughter’s) poetry and art work very much. The blogging world is a far richer source of inspiration than I originally gave it credit. I’m not sure how this blog will develop either… I have ideas and will just see how it all unfolds. Thanks again.


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