10,000 Hours

Gladwell-10000-hoursIn my time researching the art of art, looking into folks I admire and seeing what all was required for them to become what they had (have) become, the old adage, Practice Makes Perfect, seems to almost always come into play.  The quote in the image here is a more specified version of that cliched statement, giving a definitive number to the amount of practice required before you have actually attained the level of perfection required to be an expert in your given field.

This idea is nothing new, Malcolm Gladwell merely gave the idea a number, a number he approached through researching those he admired.

Although the idea of practicing makes perfect is something that’s hammered into our heads from early on, looking at the idea from a more scientific angle makes it seem almost impossible to ever actually reach perfection.  I mean, three hours a day for ten years…. you’re not going to get that by going to school, unless you want to get perfect at sitting nicely in a desk and listening to someone talk to you.

It takes dedication, it takes a true and honest love of what you want to perfect and truly sticking to it for as long as you can.

Of course, perfection is, in no way, required to become successful in your chosen craft, whether it be music, sports, accounting, or whatever.  In fact, many musicians have made their way quite high on the charts just by knowing the three important chords of popular music.  There’s much to be said for genetic talent when it comes to any sporting endeavor.  And accounting…well, I mean, seriously, who knows what those guys do anyways, right? 😉

Success (and we’re mostly talking about financial success here), even if you reach perfection, has a certain amount of kismet involved, some sort of divine intervention that is required in order for the stars to align perfectly for you, no matter what you do, to actually get to where you want to be.  Even accountants have to manage to land the big jobs that would put them within the lines of what society considers successful.   Sure, there’s a ton of hard work and dedication involved in actually becoming successful as well, but I believe in almost all of those situations you’ll find at least one moment in which a certain amount of luck was involved.

That, of course, is talking about extreme successes, seeing as if your goal is just to cross the street without tripping over the cobblestones, that could be something that’s done purely through careful planning and cautious footwork.

Perfection, therefore, is not really all that much of a requirement for life, or, more importantly, for success.  In fact, many people who could be considered to have reached the level of perfection have never actually seen any form of (societally approved) success.  Van Gogh is a great example, although his work would be found posthumously, his was far from a success during his lifetime, yet his work speaks wonders in the artwork for his mastery of the craft.

So, why seek perfection?  If it’s not a precursor to success, if gaining perfection does not promise success, it seems that the mere idea of becoming an “expert” in a given field is pointless.  One can easily gain great financial wealth through a number of means, none of which require perfection, many of which just require being in the right place at the right time.

Outside of the concept of pride, “I want to be the best there ever was”, I think there’s really only one reason to ever reach that status.  Love, passion, complete and utter desire to continue doing whatever it is over and over again for as long as you can.  For these people, these people with the passion for whatever it is that they are passionate about, perfection doesn’t come because of a focus to become perfect (in fact, from my experience with these types of people, they will never see themselves as perfect), it comes, to some degree, by accident.  They do this thing that they love so much and for so long that perfection just kind of happens.

There’s no reward for perfection.  And attaining perfection is not the end for those people who get there.  They will continue to strive to be more than they are, continue to do, continue to practice, continue to learn, and, ultimately, surpass the visible limits of the craft they work in.  These are the people who move things forward in their field, the people who just can’t stop doing, can’t stop experimenting, they just can’t stop.

This is one of the things I love about the artistic market of today.  Although I’m completely disappointed that so many people who have amazing talents will never be found by the world at large, due to the fact that the marketplace is flooded with an overabundance of everything; there are these people who still have the need to continue.  These people aren’t doing it for success (although I’m sure they’d love to make a buck or two off of what they are doing).  They’re doing it simply because they have to.

They’re passionate about what they do and because of that, they will surprise you if you give them a chance.

The indie market (although I hate to call it that, because so many people with the label of “indie” have reached success and therefore stopped trying) is filled with some incredible talent, people that you will never find unless you’re looking for them.  People who will probably continue to work at their craft in utter anonymity because they just can’t compete with the superstars of today in the way of brand recognition.

Although I don’t even want to attempt to sound like I compare to these true artists, these people of passion, I do find myself quite happy to sit among this invisible pantheon.  When the rest of the world is stuck writing about emo vampires and sex dungeons, these folks are writing stories that you can care about.  When the world at large is busy reading the most recent (ghost-written) biography of some recovered celebrity, these folks are trying to figure out how best to tell a story in a completely original way.   These are the folks who, years from now, we’ll be seeing grace the shelves of everyone’s library, not the drivel that is being mass-produced today.  These folks are writing the stuff that our descendants will be proud of, will want their children to read.

Hopefully they will live to see it.

Now, this is not some blanket statement to say that people who self-publish are all amazing writers, or that people who put out their garage band CDs are developing the next big thing in music.  There’s so much crap out there, whether mainstream or hidden.  However, there are those whose focus is for perfection, not success, and I honestly believe these are the folks who will be leading the way in the years to come.

I just hope I can ride on their coattails when they finally get there.

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One Reply to “10,000 Hours”

  1. I should probably add that Van Gogh’s brilliance was aided, at least in part, by his insanity…something he had way more than 10,000 hours of experience for.

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