Friday, February 20, 2009

Ten Thousand Hours

Years ago I gave a speech to a writers’ group on the secrets of success in which the recurring theme was “And then you work really, really hard.” Know your material, and work really, really hard. Do your research, and then work really, really hard. Develop your skills, and then work really, really hard. Know your market– and work really, really hard. Seek out opportunity– and then work really, really hard.

There was a reason for my fixation on the subject of hard work. At the time of the speech, I was a working writer who had not been out of contract (in other words, I published steadily) for over ten years. I was tired of people telling me how lucky I was. I worked fourteen hours a day, without sick leave, holidays,vacation time or a pension plan, to be so lucky. In my experience, there was no such thing as luck. There was preparation (being good at your job) and then there was extraordinary hard work.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) to find my theory validated fifteen years later in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers. Gladwell posits that the fluke of success we attribute to legends like Bill Gates and The Beatles is really just a matter of preparation/opportunity combined with hard work. According to Gladwell, the one difference between equally talented people who achieve success and those who don’t is not just that the successful ones work harder; they work much, much harder. In fact, the magic number across the board seems to be ten thousand hours.

Well, what do you know about that? Ten thousand hours of really, really hard work was exactly what I had under my belt at the time I gave my speech on the secrets of success.

It's nice to be right every now and then.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How on Earth do you know that? were you running a stopwatch everytime you worked? This is nonsense.