10,000 Hours. Is That All It Takes To Be Successful In Your Career?

By August 5, 2014 Career Advice and Tips

I have been reading a book called The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  It references Bill Gates and The Beatles as getting to the pinnacle of their careers by indulging in 10,000 hours of practice, equivalent to 3-5 years depending on your working day.  Is that all it takes to be successful at what you do?

The Beatles played for 8 hours a night, 7 days a week for 3 years in Hamburg before hitting the big time, Bill Gates grabbed every opportunity including evenings and weekends to practice his programming over a 5 year period.  Both got to the top of their game and earned fabulous amounts of money.

Whilst it is easy to say practice makes perfect, it is not the sole reason why one person is far more successful than others.  There are other factors at play:

Right place, right time:  I went to University in 1994, the very year the internet became widespread (we had to book time on an internet connected desktop).  The internet was big news, my fellow students and I grabbed every opportunity to use it.  We were amongst the first people to use the internet in the office.  My colleagues born just 2 years earlier struggled to use it.  Those born afterwards seem to take it for granted and struggle when it goes down. They often hide behind e-mails, avoiding the use of the all important phone to communicate.

In my generation of school leavers, only about 10% went on to University; now it is more like 40%.  There were fewer roles desiring a degree and less competition; a degree when I graduated simply got you a couple of rungs further up the career ladder than it does now.  

A Graduate or School Leaver of today can still get to the top with these factors:

Lucky breaks:  If your employer offers training, or a promotion, take it, then learn to get good at it.  If a new job, internship, temporary job or voluntary role that will really hone your skills arises, grab it.  If someone is willing to mentor you in the workplace, take their help.

Attitude:  A recent survey published in the Telegraph states that soft skills are more valued than technical knowledge for new Graduates.  This is nothing new to us in recruitment; there has to be chemistry and often the personality, willingness to learn and acceptance of change win out over experience.    Neither Bill Gates nor The Beatles stopped learning after their 10,000 hours; they continued learning and breaking new ground.  Lawyers, Architects, Accountants, Dentists and Doctors’ businesses are called practices and with good reason, they never ‘become’, they always practice.

  ‘The Outliers’ references Nobel Peace Prize Winners, of which only a handful went to ‘elite’ Universities, the rest went to ‘good’ Universities.  There is a cut off point for being ‘good enough’ technically and knowledge wise.  Your attitude will make a big difference on whether you will reach the top or not.

With a combination of continual learning and practice, being in the right place at the right time, lucky breaks and most importantly attitude, your prospects of being successful will increase substantially.