Sunday, October 27, 2013

10,000 hours


This is a guest post by The Urban Blabbermouth. Comments are welcome!
Malcolm Galdwell, in his book Outliers, said that a person can become an expert after 10,000 hours of practice.  Confession: I have not read this particular book, although I did read some of his New Yorker articles on his website.

As a sports fan, I am thinking of successful athletes.  Maybe the 10,000 hours holds there.  Hard to tell.  Many of the athletes have been playing their sport since they were babies.  Tiger Woods's dad started him on golf early.  By age 15, he probably exceeded 10,000 hours.  Same for the Williams sisters in tennis. Their dad started them on tennis when they were 5 years old.  So how can one separate the natural skill that one is born with from the 10,000 hours of practice?  No one knows.

The 10,000 hours practice benchmark seems to apply in some unexpected areas.  One might think of sports or playing music where hours of practice required to be great is quite obvious.  You can easily see athletes practicing on the playing field or musicians playing their instruments in a studio. 

There are areas where the hours of practice is occurring but is not so obvious.  I think of my friend, a former intern, who is now an up and coming manager where I work, with the potential to become the  company's CEO.  She came in with some already well developed people management skills.  She is still young so she has not been working long enough to have achieved the 10, 000 hours benchmark.  So where did she learn her skill?

After getting to know her at lunchtime chats, I learned that her parents divorced before she was a teenager.  From that moment onward, she and her siblings were now part of a single mother household.  When her mom was working, it fell to her to manage the family's affairs.  At an early age, she had to deal with her siblings, their schools, the landlord, food shopping on a budget, and that sort of thing.  There it is, the 10,000 hours!  She was practicing business management skills in the guise of managing her family's household.  By time she joined our company, she was already past the 10,000 hours practice benchmark.

What this story tells us is that your parents must first divorce if you want to get to the CEO's job.  Just joking!  No, the story is that people can practice to the 10,000 hours benchmark in unexpected places.   Look around you for unnoticed opportunities where you can practice the skills you need to be great in your chosen field.