The Principle of 10,000 Hours

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” has stayed on the New York Times bestseller list ever since it was released. Gladwell is a journalist, author, and pop sociologist. His book examines people who excel in their professions and make extraordinary accomplishments.

One somewhat surprising conclusion he reached is that people with exceptionally high IQs don’t necessarily become high achievers. Most of them live successful but ordinary lives.

One critical factor that influences famous pioneers in every field is timing: they are born at just the right time. For example, he convincingly argues that Bill Gates’ success could not have been the same if he had been born 10 years earlier or later. He had access to computers before that was common, and was able to apply his unique expertise right when personal computers grew in popularity.

One nearly universal trait of high achievers is that they practice their skills for more than 10,000 hours. Bill Gates spent around 10,000 hours programming back when computer access was rare. Without that time spent honing his craft, he may not have become the software giant he is today.

According to Gladwell, all outstanding musicians accumulate 10,000 hours of practice time before they became accomplished performers. Even Mozart, who was a musical genius and child prodigy, didn’t produce excellent work until he reached an age where he had likely practiced for 10,000 hours. This is true not just in music but in every field; those who excel log at least 10,000 hours of practice time, almost without exception.

When I shared this with Pastor Lee, he pointed out that the total amount of time I’ve spent in prayer has also exceeded 10,000 hours. I think his calculations are right! I’ve been praying 3 hours a day for the last 15 years. Even subtracting time when I’ve been traveling or on vacation, the total probably exceeds 10,000 hours.

10,000 hours of practice comes out to 3 hours of practice every day for 10 years. So if you want to excel in something, you must stick with it for at least 10 years. Even Shepherds may have to serve for 10 years before they become truly excellent Shepherds.

When you choose a career, you may want to ask yourself this question: “Am I willing to spend the next ten years of my life in this field? Will I still be happy doing this in a decade?” Only when you can answer this question positively may you want to plunge into it.

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