Practice isn’t the thing you do once you are good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.
A few years ago I read Outliers: The Story of Success, written by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a fascinating book, and one concept has stayed with me to this day.
Gladwell begins one particular chapter by discussing a 1990’s study of Berlin’s elite Academy of Music. Students were divided into three groups: the “stars,” those who were only “good,” and those who were unlikely to play professionally.
They discovered one factor that separated these three groups–practice. The best players had practiced relentlessly, putting in around 10,000 hours (starting from childhood) before they enrolled in the academy. Similar patterns were discovered among pianist. This was surprising–the researchers didn’t find any exceptions (no “naturals” who effortlessly achieved excellence; no “grinds” who put the time in but didn’t make elite status).
The author looks at other examples of this 10,000 hour rule:
*Mozart started writing music at age six, but his greatest work came after he had been composing for twenty years.
*It takes about ten years to become a chess grandmaster.
*Bill Gates was introduced to computers as a teenager (an era when access to computers was extremely rare). He spent thousands of hours on computer programming before graduating high school.
*The Beatles performed for hours on end in a German club during the early 60’s (sometimes playing eight hours straight, seven days a week). They were just a mediocre high school band before spending all this time on stage.
The list goes on.
This 10,000 hour rule may surprise you–it did me. I tend to overestimate the role of “natural talent” and underestimate the role of practice.
It kind of reminds me of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Each man was given talents by his master. They had a choice between maximizing or squandering what had been given to them.
Here’s my point:
God has given all of us some kind of gift/talent. I think we owe it to Him to be excellent–to make the most of whatever He gave us. But there are no shortcuts to greatness–it’s up to you to invest the necessary time to become great.
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