Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success continues his steady stream of thought-provoking bestsellers. This book will make a lot of people feel much better about not achieving instant success. Gladwell maintains it takes about 10 years, or 10,000 hours, of practice to attain true expertise.
“The people at the very top don’t just work harder or even much harder than everyone else,” Gladwell writes. “They work much, much harder.” Achievement, he says, is talent plus preparation…and the preparation part of the formula looms far larger than we normally assume.
Gladwell cites The Beatles’ rise to fame as unassailable evidence. They had been together seven years before their famous arrival in America. They spent a lot of time playing in strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany, sometimes for as long as eight hours a night. John Lennon said of those years, “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long.” Overnight sensation? Not exactly. Estimates are that the band performed live 1,200 times in their careers!
Gladwell quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin, who has extensively studies the formula for success.
The emerging picture from such studies is that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert–in anything. In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals and what have you, the number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.
As Malcom Gladwell puts it, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
Mackay’s Moral: Some people dream about success, and others wake up and do something about it.
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