Practice Makes Perfect... Or Does It?

Jul 14, 2014

I recently read "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Gladwell speaks to "What makes high-achievers different"? His answer is that society pays too much attention to what successful people are like and not enough about what they do to get there.

One particular chapter in the book that I found very interesting was the chapter on the 10,000 hour rule.  Gladwell is talking about a specific commonality that the greatest innovators and legends have in common. They have all perfected specific areas of expertise by practicing over 10,000 hours in their lifetime. Some of the life stories Gladwell refers to are Mozart, Bill Joy, Bill Gates and The Beatles. Not one of the success stories have anything to do with having natural talent.  All of the stories proclaim that hard work, dedication, motivation and 10,000 hours of practice came together to get them where they became influential in their areas of expertise. 

A short example from the book is the story about The Beatles. Before the band became "The Beatles" they were just trying to make a living and do what they loved. An interesting fact that I was not aware of was that Lenon and McCartney met and were playing together for seven years prior to the band members coming together! Once the band was formed they, by chance, were given the opportunity to play in a London strip club 7 days a week for 8 hours a day. That is 56 hours a week of perfecting their songs before an album release! The fact that they played so much together made them a force to be reckoned with once they hit their big break in the music industry. "It seems that it takes the brain 10,000 hours to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery." (40) Practicing and working your way up to 10,000 hours can pay off!

It is interesting to think that no one is born with natural talent. In today's society, the "all-stars" are frowned upon or sometimes not even considered if they are not from a specific ethnic background, race, a particular family structure or environment. "Achievement is talent plus preparation." (38) People may be born with qualities that could make them successful but everyone has a choice whether to continue moving forwards to reach their goals or to simply give up.

Being a young professional, I thought that I missed my opportunity to reach anything close to 10,000 hours of practice. But this simply is not the case! "Most people can reach that number if they get into some kind of special program or if they get some kind of extraordinary opportunity that gives them a chance to put in those hours." (42) Getting involved in the community or related programs is a great way to continue gaining hours of practice!

I really enjoyed the book as a whole. Gladwell writes through a series of case studies. Every chapter has a different story that proves how an Outlier, someone who doesn't fit into our normal understanding of achievement, can become successful. This book proves that not one person is the same or comes from the same background. So why does society feel the need to make sure that we are all on the same path to success? Gladwell says that success is about individual opportunity and time on task.

Having grown up in a family where hard work and goals are encouraged, I always worked hard to get to where I wanted to be in life. After graduating from Springfield College I applied to a number of job positions and after a while, I was hired for a position in a field that I had no interest in. I was not trying to reach 10,000 hours with that company. Since I left that job and now work for HYPE, I have been introduced to so many great opportunities and meeting so many amazing people! I have been fortunate enough to have achieved individual opportunity that Gladwell speaks of.  In order to continue in his formula for success I will now work on my 10,000 hours of practice to reach my own goals!

There are always those who oppose in every conversation. In a new Princeton study they tear down Malcolm Gladwell's theory and state that practicing 10,000 hours only pertains to certain areas. For example, in their article they state that practicing in the areas of sport and music improve a person's skills. However, in terms of studying hard in education or working hard at a profession, practice does not apply for how a person improves. I still believe that putting in the hours of practice does truly help in all areas and I would love to hear more about what you think. Leave a comment below and let's discuss it!

Jackie Valliere is HYPE's Administrative Event Coordinator. She graduated from college in 2012 and has been working for HYPE since March of 2014.

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