10,000 Hours

I read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell a couple of years ago and it really stuck with me.

In Outliers, Gladwell investigates what makes people successful. He uses prominent figures like Bill Gates and The Beatles as examples and analyzes birthdate, upbringing, opportunities, cultural inheritance, and this idea of 10,000 hours.

outliersGladwell argues that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate work—defined as purposeful and single-minded with the intent to get better—at something to become a true expert. A master.

Now, 10,000 hours is a really long time. That’s 417 days straight, 5 years of full time work, the amount of time it would take to travel to and from Mars (not including the months you’d need to wait for the planets to realign), or 556 Harry Potter movie marathons.

Out of curiosity, I calculated how many hours I’ve put toward writing novels and found that I’m hovering right around 8,500 hours. Which isn’t bad considering I started writing back in October 2008 and mainly do so on weekends and early in the morning before work.

But this is what stands out to me: you have to be extremely passionate about something to pursue it for 10,000 hours.

I’m absolutely passionate about writing, the art of storytelling and word wrangling. Other things in my life that probably come close to hitting the 10,000 hour mark are reading, running, math (oh, the hours I’ve spent memorizing the unit circle for Calculus!), and making burritos (as a Colorado native, this has been a staple in my diet since before I can remember).

Have you worked at something for 10,000 hours? If so, what is it? What do you think of Gladwell’s 10,000 hour idea?


Author: Kate Lansing

I write mysteries, YA novels, and short fiction. I also read A LOT, travel as much as possible, and take way too many pictures of my cat.

11 thoughts on “10,000 Hours”

  1. Funny you should write about Malcolm Gladwell as I always think of his ten-thousand hours rule. I wonder how close I am to that. It makes sense — practice makes perfect — and all that. But I agree, you really have to love something and want it badly enough to commit 10K hours. That’s a lot of time.


  2. I’m not really sure if I’ve worked at writing for 10,000 hours and it’s too hard to figure out. And I’m not sure if it’s the number 10,000 that is important. But it is true that you can’t get really good at anything without putting in some serious effort. As my taekwondo instructor says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”


  3. I’m not sure if I’ve read Outliers, but I have read something that had the same concept. Gotta agree, practice makes knowledgeable. I don’t think it makes perfect (love the tawkwando instructor’s quote, Mary. I could buy into that concept). The 10,000 hours is not as important, I would think as the practice. It supposedly takes 30 days to make a habit, becoming a habitual writer, doing it daily or on whatever schedule works for you, will make you better. Doing it haphazardly–probably not since the learning curve would be interrupted. Calculus! Oh MY! If you have mastered that, you can master anything!


  4. I think the 10,000 hour concept is right on, and good on you, Kate, for your 8,500! Another way to think of it is the million-word idea, that we have to write a million words of cr– before we start writing to a publishable standard. And yeah, my sensei also told us about the perfect practice. Repeating mistakes doesn’t get you ahead.


  5. I’m a huge Bronco fan (yay!!!) and Peyton Manning has this fabulous commercial about 10,000 hours and the skill levels that increase for someone who invests that amount of time in a serious and dedicated way. The commercial is primarily for a medical center team, and is one of my favorites.

    While in some ways, okay a lot of ways, each book seems to be surprisingly harder to write, there are things that become easier because of the previous hours invested in learning and trusting the process.

    Here’s to 10,000 hours!


  6. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments, ladies!!

    Mary, I love your taekwondo instructor’s quote! It so eloquently speaks to the quality and focus of work that’s necessary in order to improve.

    Sue, I’ve never heard that about 1,000,000 words, but think that’s a fascinating idea! I may be adding up my total word count next…

    Peg, yay Broncos!!! The Super Bowl was like a national holiday at my house, as was the week following it, lol 😉 And well said about learning and trusting the process!


  7. Great post and comments. My take-away from this is that passion and commitment go hand-in-hand. Whether you put in the 10,000 hours or 1 million words or not, if you’re committed and passionate, you’re likely moving forward/improving/etc. at the thing you’ve chosen. Which is awesome.


  8. Thanks, Pamela! Absolutely. That’s a great attitude! 10,000 hours or 1,000,000 words are great goals, but ultimately it’s about working toward what you’re passionate about and striving to improve day by day 🙂


  9. Cynthia, that number is super daunting!! So is writing a whole novel starting from page 1! For the most part, I have to take things one step at a time, but I do appreciate having that 10,000 hour threshold to work toward 🙂


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