Malcom Gladwell made the concept of 10,000 hours famous in his book Outliers. In his best-selling book, he discusses how successful people such as The Beatles and Bill Gates became seemingly overnight sensations. But in reality, they became outliers through lots of practice – 10,000 hours of practice.
Bill Gates had been writing code for years because he had special access to computers. The Beatles played daily, for hours on end in the Caverns of Liverpool and in clubs in Hamburg before making it big.
It explains that, while every once in a while, people achieve success through beginners luck, the vast majority of success stories are through many hours, days, and years of practice.
Consider that in your own life. Let’s say you want to be a concert pianist in your spare time. You religiously practice for one hour every day. You would theoretically be an accomplished pianist in 10,000 days, or 27 years 4 months, and 26 days.
If you bump it up to 1.5 hours per day, you could reduce that time to 18 years, 3 months, and 5 days.
But if it is your job, you presumably have more time to get those 10,000 hours. Assuming you work an average of 8 hours per day, you can get about 2,000 hours in one year. My trusty calculator tells me that at that rate, you can accomplish 10,000 hours in just five years.
So why doesn’t everybody become a huge success like Bill Gates after working for five years? Most of us get some good experience. After five years of decent experience, most people are in the sweet spot for marketability. We have 10,000 hours of experience, but haven’t moved too far up the salary scale. That good experience is still affordable to a hiring firm.
But unlike practicing the piano for 10,000 hours, a majority of your peers have also been working for the last five years to acquire their own 10,000. Your experience is much more likely to become a commodity. It is your responsibility to make that 10,000 hours unique.
If you want to achieve anything, you have to set a goal to achieve it. If it’s a big accomplishment, you may want to break it down into many smaller goals. These smaller goals can become building blocks for the big one.
Setting goals creates the vision for what you want to be in the future. Stay focused on the goal and you significantly increase your chances of achieving it.
Volunteer for opportunities
You may see your peers given opportunities that you seem to get passed up for. It’s possible that management sees them as more worthy. But it’s also possible that management doesn’t even know you are interested.
Speak with your boss or anyone with authority to make assignments. Let them know what you are interested in doing. It might just result in getting an assignment that boosts your career.
Go above and beyond
Too often, when someone gets an assignment, they do the bare minimum to get it done. But showing management that you are willing to go the extra mile and do a stellar job will make them more aware of you and your capabilities.
When going above and beyond, take care not to “gold plate.” Gold plating is adding additional functionality that wasn’t asked for. If your manager assigns you something that she thinks will take eight hours, you should do your best work in that eight hours. Working sixteen hours and adding flair that she doesn’t expect or want, will make her wary of assigning new tasks to you.
Update your resume regularly
Your resume isn’t just a tool to help you find a job. It’s a journal of your journey. After every project or growth experience, review your resume. Update it with the experiences that show you are growing. Remove items that no longer represent who you are or where you want to go. If you want to be seen for your leading edge technology skills, earlier experience with obsolete ones will not represent you well.
Making these updates ensures that your resume has your best information. It also helps you gauge whether you are going in the direction you want to go.
Getting 10,000 hours of experience in anything will allow you to develop great skills. But at work, everyone else is getting 10,000 hours of experience. Developing a plan to continually grow will help you to make the most of those 10,000 hours.
How are you making the most of your 10,000 hours of experience?
I welcome your questions and comments.
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