Malcom Gladwel has tackled the question of success in his new book OUTLIERS published this week by Little, Brown and Company. I find Gladwell and his work interestng for two reasons. The first is that I’ve seen this guy everywhere this week — his publicity push for this book has been nothing short of amazing. In one day I saw him on the Rachel Maddow Show, the Daily Show and heard him on NPR. This New Yorker journalist is a case study in the right way to promote a book.
Secondly, the subject matter of this book grabs my attention — challenging the idea of the self-made man (person). Gladwell seeks to answer the question, What makes some people successful? In the interviews I’ve seen he lists cultural factors and small advantages that individuals are able to leverage into a real competitive edge. Innate talent and intelligence isn’t enough, it must be married with social and emotional skills as well as dedication and practice. 10,000 hours is what Gladwell has determined is the amount of time needed to become skilled at a given task.
10,000 hours is a lot of time — have I put in my time yet, with writing? I wonder, when does the clock start ticking. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I find stories in old notebooks from my childhood (labeled “private keep out this means YOU”) with stories about orphan girls who run away to Norway, or pocket fuzz that comes to life and goes adventuring. Did all of this imagination start my clock ticking? Did the 10,000 start when I finally sat down and decided that writing is doing not being. A writer writes. Did the invisible minute and hour hands start moving at that point, logging my time for greatness?
I think it requires more than just the 10,000 hours to become good. I think there must be an active commitment to that goal on the part of the individual. Otherwise people who work for 10,000 hours waiting tables or building cars or selling beds should be the best. Yet, many are only mediocre.
I better get back to work.