10,000 Hours: Gladwell and Macklemore Style

Malcolm Gladwell brought us the concept of 10,000 hours, and while I’m about halfway through his book, Outliers, I find myself more inspired by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ take on Gladwell’s idea. Maybe the writing in the book is a little dry for me, or maybe I should listen to more books on tape because the spoken word resonates more with me. Either way, on the album The Heist, Macklemore introduces himself as “some Malcolm Gladwell, David Bowie meets Kayne shit,” and I find myself listening a little more closely. Macklemore was apparently so inspired by Gladwell that he devoted a whole track to it: 10,000 Hours. And in summarizing Gladwell’s take on where talent comes from, Macklemore gets it pretty succinctly: “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great because they paint a lot.”

It’s this notion of talent coming from a place of interest and then a whole lot of practice. Lots and lots of practice. 10,000 is the number of hours Gladwell suggests will make us an expert in something. For most of us, that means a minimum of five years of full time work, which assumes a 50-week work year at 40 hours per week.  If you happen to not be working in the field in which you’d like to be an expert, you’ve got to find that time in your nonworking hours. Assuming you were devoted and spent 2 hours every single day of every single week (in addition to all the things you need to be a responsible adult!), you’re looking at something just shy of 14 years.

It’s an impressive devotion to something, and I can really only think of a handful of things that I’ve ever spent 10,000 on. Swimming comes to mind, but having participated in exactly zero Olympics, I don’t know that I can quite claim expert status yet. When I look at my professional and personal lives, the theme of people seems to be my common thread, and I don’t have a hard time seeing myself as a people expert. Through all my years of volunteer management work, I’ve spent a long time listening to people, hearing what they really want and working to help make that happen. In my personal life, I take pride in being a friend to turn to for advice, comfort or a good laugh (all usually accompanied by a glass of wine). In both areas of my life, I want people to feel they are better off having spent time with me. That’s what drives me, and that’s what I continue to practice. 10,000 hours and counting. Where have you logged 10,000 hours?

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