This morning someone asked me on Twitter what I thought of Seth Godin’s recent post on his blog about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory. Interestingly, the theory is very close to one Godin writes about in his book The Dip. It led to a very thought-provoking discussion.
What is the 10,000 hour theory? In Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book Outliers, he states that it takes 10,000 hours to become the best at something. How did he come up with that? He looked at Mozart, Bill Gates, the Beatles, Tiger Woods and others who are all undeniably the best in their chosen field. How did they overcome their various obstacles to become so successful? The common factor was the amount of time they put into becoming who they are. Approximately, 10,000 hours by Gladwell’s estimates.
But does it really take 10,000 hours? Not always, says Godin. He cites several examples in his blog post of people (and groups) that have risen to the top on far less than 10,000 hours of work including The Doors, The Bee Gees, Miley Cyrus, bloggers Doc Searls and Scoble and Molly Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook. (I own her first cookbook and it is excellent.)
I think Gladwell would agree that those people are famous, and may even have reached top of their field. But are they what anyone would call the “best?” It is arguable.
Seth Godin himself may be a solid example of Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory. Godin is a highly prolific writer, speaker and founder of a dot com company. And while he may enjoy his work — and may be lazily typing away on a Macbook Air, filling out his Squidoo lens while sipping a daiquiri on a beach somewhere in the Virgin Islands — it still is his hard work probably totaling over 10,000-some hours that has led him to become a respected expert in his field.
That being said, I come back to the word “expert.” Perhaps Gladwell shouldn’t have used the word “best.” After all, is Mozart the “best?” Certainly not all would agree. It comes down to a semantics issue. And with all due respect, I’m siding with Gladwell on this one.
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