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The 10,000 miles needed for extraordinary performance

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Ben Steenstra Ben Steenstra
06-12-2019 7 mins read

Malcolm Gladwell, a well-established journalist and author of several bestsellers, published in 2008 his book "Outliers". In addition to his own research, this book is also based on research by Anders Ericsson. It brings to the surface that anyone who is extraordinarily good at something has been doing at least 10,000 hours. Having a talent for something does exist, but according to Gladwell, it is largely overestimated when it comes to superior performance.

The 10,000 miles needed for extraordinary performance

Talent exists but does not make the difference according to Anders Ericsson

Anders Ericsson's research focuses on the above-average performance of chess players, athletes, musicians, and performance within the medical world. Time and again, it is proven that talent can play a role if you want to be superior, but that the real difference is made by 10,000 hours of intensive practice.

During a study, a group of violinists was divided into three groups. The first group had moderate musical qualities, the second group had good musical qualities, and the third group was considered to be very talented.

During this research, it appeared that the first group with moderate musical qualities had played the violin for about 4,000 hours. The second group had played about 8.000 hours, and the third group had made about 10.000 hours of music on their violin.

When the same research was done among Piano players, Chess players, and even among a group of criminals, time and again about the same number of hours was spent.

Talent alone is not the only way to perform excessively

We tend to think that someone has or doesn't have a talent and that someone with talent only needs a stage to capitalize on that talent. But according to Gladwell, talent is not decisive for extreme performance.

Beethoven and the 10,000 hours

As an example, he mentions, among others, Beethoven, who was able to compose at a very young age. But it was not until he was twenty-three that he became famous, and many of his earlier compositions were by no means masterpieces.

The Beatles and the 10,000 hours

Another example is the Beatles. It may seem that at first there was nothing and suddenly there were the Beatles. What is less known about them is that from August 1960 till December 1962, they did more than 250 gigs in the German city of Hamburg. They sometimes performed 5 to 6 hours a day, and that was in addition to their rehearsals. Before they became known, the group had already made 10.000 hours so they could transcend their talent.

Bill Gates and the 10.000 hours

Bill Gates is the third example of someone who had made 10,000 hours before success came his way. When Gates gained access to the university's computer in 1968, he spent more than 1,500 hours teaching himself programming in the first seven months alone. That's an average of 7.5 hours a day, seven days a week. Before he started Microsoft, he had already spent more than 10,000 hours on software development.

Fleetwood Mac and the 10,000 hours

On February 4, 1977, Fleetwood Mac launched their best album called "Rumours". It was their eleventh album, and they did so ten years after the band was founded. By continuously attracting new and divesting existing band members, the band continued to develop to become the Fleetwood Mac we still know today, only in the early 70s.

10 years of training to become excellent

The 10,000 hours is symbolic and, according to Gladwell, equals ten years of dedication. Of course, you have to be good enough in the basics, but if you want to rise above the rest, you need ten years of commitment and experience. After all, you can't become a professional footballer when you're forty. But a young talented soccer player without ten years of dedication will never be special.

The benefit of 10 years and 10,000 hours of commitment

Someone who can give ten years and 10,000 hours of commitment and discipline doesn't have to do the same as someone else who does the same. However, they will both rise far above the rest.

It is due to their focus and the intensity of feedback. By making so many hours, you can transform a lot of feedback into something that works better for you. You can learn to see your own weaknesses and develop them into something strong.

Get the most out of 10 years and 10,000 hours.

No matter how talented you are, if you have bad habits, are a bit lazy, and don't have the right attitude, you can never make the difference that makes the difference. You probably can't keep up the ten years and 10,000 hours, and if you can, you haven't made the most of it.

According to Gladwell, all people who do extraordinary things in a particular area have spent at least 10,000 hours within ten years, with great dedication. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are scarce.

An exception to the rule is chess grandmaster Bobby Fisher

One such exception is chess grandmaster Bobby Fisher. It takes 10,000 hours and ten years to become a grandmaster in chess. However, Fisher was the only one to do it and the first to do it within nine years.

You need ten years and 10,000 hours to learn from your mistakes.

Some things you can get told because they don't resonate until you've experienced them yourself. You can tell someone what it was like to fight Vietnam during the war, but you have to experience it to really understand it. People who practice 10,000 hours in 10 years can continuously learn and comprehend their mistakes and feel how they can make a difference.

Effort is always rewarded

According to Gladwell, an effort is always rewarded if you work on it with complete dedication. According to him, it is a matter of starting as young as possible and making as many hours as possible.

He reasons that children from wealthier families often perform better because their parents, on average, more often ensure that their child is always busy. They are allowed to practice sports, music, or other leisure activities continuously.

The pitfall of wanting to be good at something

If you start something, you're not skilled at it yet. If you expect that after a few hours of practice, the pitfall is that you can measure yourself against people who have practiced for 10,000 hours, the disappointment can be significant.

The same can be seen with starting entrepreneurs. During the first few months, no profit is made, and the losses increase. Because entrepreneurs who have been working for much longer do not do so. They give up without learning from the feedback.

Why people with dyslexia are often more successful

It turns out that among the most successful entrepreneurs, there is more dyslexia than among employees and other population groups. Most of these successful entrepreneurs themselves say that they have become successful not despite dyslexia, but thanks to dyslexia.

If you have dyslexia, you have to work around it as a young student. It allows you to learn earlier and faster, for example, to listen carefully or to become friends with the smartest boy in the classroom who you can persuade to do your homework. Most people with dyslexia practiced their communication styles at an early age, and they practiced delegating, motivating, and forming teams.

Conclusion: Malcolm Gladwell says that if you want to rise above the rest and become successful, you have to practice 10,000 hours. He calls this the 10,000 miles. It takes an average of ten years. He does not deny that talent exists but claims that the 10,000 miles can transcend your talent.

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