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Don’t be Intimidated by the 10,000 Hour Rule

by Shane Mehling
creativity

10000 rule

Malcolm Gladwell got a lot of press when he created the 10,000 Hour Rule. In his book Outliers, this rule means that to attain “greatness” in a certain field, you need to spend 10,000 hours on it. He points to the Beatles and Bill Gates and shows his work to prove that their talents got them to a certain point, but putting in that kind of time is what pushed them across the threshold from good to great.

Now, for many of us that works out to about 20 hours a week for ten years. And that kind of schedule sucks for two reasons: 1. It’s hard work every week and 2. It still takes forever. Even if we’ve been working hard up to today, we could be looking at years and years before we ever feel like we’ve hit a true level of excellence.

So ignore it.

We’re not saying don’t practice or don’t work your ass off, because of course you need to. You should be trying to put as many hours of work in every week if this is truly something you’re serious about. But it’s silly to think that some special number is required to do anything that is truly remarkable. Plenty of artists create something amazing when they’re too young to have really put 10,000 hours into that work. And that doesn’t mean they were geniuses — they just had a vision and some skill and saw it through to the end instead of losing faith.

Practice is important, incredibly important, but it does not make perfect. What is more important is that you do not let the 10,000 Hour Rule intimidate you. This Rule is not a necessity. Instead, focus on the Ten Hour Rule. Promise that you will dedicate ten full hours to something you’re doing. You won’t end up being an expert, but in less than half a day you are guaranteed to be that much closer to greatness.

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Shane Mehling

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.