Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers looks at those who are outstanding in our culture. I gave this a quick look a while back and totally missed the point Gladwell was getting at, unfortunately. My perception had been that he was singing the praises of those who were gifted, blah, blah. To me that’s boring, but that’s not the case with this book. He lays out the case that in virtually all cases the ones we think of as amazing people – software tycoons, amazing athletes, and more – were usually born into ideal settings that allowed them to be uniquely developed.
There is an element of dedication in each of these achievers. Specifically, these people consistently average investment of about 10,000 hours of practice in their various disciplines whether it is piano playing or chess or the Beatles with music or software programming.
Strange as they may sound I find that an encouraging message. Investing sheer time and discipline in a skill set is something any of us can do at any point in life. To be born with an innate talent – now that is non-negotiable. Either you have it or (more likely) you don’t. Gladwell’s point is a person with just an above-average skill level (like many of us) can become amazing with enough time and focus passionately invested. 10,000 hours. You can do that. That’s a lot of toilets to clean, but you can do it.