In a recent blog post our online friend, Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image, implied that the 10,000 hour rule at becoming an expert is overstated. He contends that if you “practice the electric bass really hard (let's call is 10,000 hours), my guess is that the vast majority of people will know how to play the electric bass very well, but very few of them will be true bass players.”
He goes on to apply the same logic to writing, painting, and photography – let us add in lawyering, accounting and banking.
Is Mitch Joel right? Let’s look at our friend Joey, a marketing and people person by nature. Joey got involved in a local butcher shop doing some marketing and admin work for them. Now, Joey was not quite a vegetarian, but was not a big carnivore either (more of a pizza and pasta type).
As life would have it a series of events has Joey running the butcher shop: cutting meat, making sausage, serving clients and all the other good and bad that comes with running a retail location in this era of internet and box stores.
Now Joey has been at it for 5 years or so, so the 10,000 hours are logged. Does that make Joey a master butcher ready to take on the best in one of those food channel reality series? Probably not.
So does writing for 10000 hours make you ready to become a GREAT novelist? Probably not.
But, and here is that "but" that your grade 5 teacher told you never to start a sentence with, so what?
Mitch Joel writes that: “Malcolm Gladwell is wrong. In his bestselling business book, Outliers, Gladwell points to the now-famous notion that anybody whose work/art that we appreciate in the world has put in the hard work to master it.”
Mr. Joel may be correct that 10,000 hours will not make you a great artist. That requires a gift – talent, inspiration, suffering and passion. We contend that you do not have to become a great artist to succeed.
What practice and experience does, and there is nothing magical per se about 10,000 hours, except that you cannot do it in 6, 12, or ever 24 months, is prepare you to become an artisan or craftsman or craftsperson.
An artisan, from the French artisan or Italian: artigiano is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, sculpture, clothing, jewellery, household items and tools. Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist. ~ source Wikipedia.
That is what we should all aspire to – whether we are writing, cooking or painting. A few will achieve greatest and be considered an artist. Bravo!
But for the rest of us, better reports, better sausage and better lifestyle are reward enough – so for those that are committed to putting in the 10,000 hours bravo. For those that are not sure, Mitch Joel is just frustrated that he cannot be in a big name rock band.
The rest of should happy to be in the top, 95%, 99% or even 99.9% in your niche. Let the stars aspire to 4 or 5 nines!
Let’s hear it for the bakers, butchers and kindle writing artisans.