The 10,000 Hour Rule
How many people do you know that started living a healthier lifestyle and quit due to not making the progress they thought they would? Like anything else in the world, achieving your goals takes time. You have to bust your ass for countless hours before you can be happy with your knowledge and skill level in your craft. This is what Malcolm Gladwell, The New York Times best selling author and Journalist with The New Yorker, explores in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. He refers to this as the 10,000-hour rule.
Malcolm Gladwell’s theory is that it takes someone 10,000-hours to master a trade. This means that someone needs to put 10,000-hours into practicing their craft before they will produce their best work. People look at the greats of their trade and believe it is some inherent skill they were born with. They fail to recognize the work that went in behind the scenes that made them the success they are. Gladwell often refers to musical composers and how without exception they all made their masterpieces after ten years of practicing. This is fascinating because as you start applying this rule to successful people, you quickly see the validity of this theory.
Seeing the Rule in Action
The Beatles are in my opinion the greatest band to world has ever seen. John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined a band together in 1957 a year before George Harrison joined the group. I believe most will agree that either Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) or Abbey Road (1969) is their greatest album; both being released more than ten years after the original three started playing together. One example of how the 10,000-hour rule holds true.
Now apply this to a current top tier IFBB pro bodybuilder, Kai Greene. Kai Greene competed in his first bodybuilding competition in 1994. At this point he already had many years of training and dieting under his belt. The mass monster we think of today when someone mentions Kai’s name did not come to be until 15 years after his first competition at the 2009 Arnold Classic. Many bodybuilding fans still argue that is the greatest Kai Greene we have ever seen. That would be his masterpiece, over 10,000-hours of practice later.
Take almost any professional athlete and you will see the outrageous amount of time they put into their craft. Tom Brady started playing football in the 1980’s. He won his first Superbowl in 2002. Kobe Bryant started playing basketball when he was three years old in 1981. He was elected to his first all-star team in 1998. Jackie Robinson started playing baseball in 1935. He won his first and only MVP award in 1949. Even professional athletes, the 1% of the athletic community, require those 10,000-hours to hone their skills. Yes, many pro athletes start their craft early in life and must wait for their bodies to mature and develop, but that does not take away from the hours they spent throwing a football, shooting a basketball, or swinging a bat.
Looking (and Planning) Ahead
Some will look at the 10,000-hour rule and be overwhelmed and pushed away from pursuing their dreams. Who has 10 years to spare? This mentality is a mistake and you are misunderstanding the purpose of both the rule, and what you’re reading. Malcolm Gladwell’s rule is theory; only a framework to follow. If your goal is to lose five pounds this will not take ten years. If your goal is to increase your bench press by fifty pounds this will not take ten years. What will take ten years? Being the best you. Being the version of you that you cannot even begin to imagine. Isn’t that worth working for? To accomplish something great that will inspire others. Do you think the Beatles anticipated completely revolutionizing music when they had their first “jam session” in 1957? No. But they stayed the course, put in their 10,000-hours, and accomplished something unimaginable.
Admittedly, 10,000-hours is intimidating. No one can stay focused on a task for ten years without achieving goals in the interim. That is why it is absolutely necessary that you set short-term goals for yourself. While your ultimate goal may be to become a professional athlete in your sport of choice, you need to also set weekly, monthly, and yearly goals to keep you motivated. A weekly goal may be to stick to your diet exactly as it is written. A monthly goal may be to set a personal record in the squat rack. A yearly goal may be to gain five pounds of lean muscle tissue. Whatever your interim goals are, they are there to fuel you and keep you focused on your ultimate goal and continue to plug away at 10,000-hours.
Next time you see a friend, or God forbid yourself, give up on a workout routine or a diet after only 2 weeks stop them! Remind them that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Anything worth having is going to take hard work and many hours of labor. If your fitness goals could be reached so easily, everyone would be walking around cellulite free with sliced abs.
Some reading this article will already have put 10,000-hours into their body and physique. Congratulations to them. If you look at the progress they have made from beginning until now it is truly inspiring. Despite this, they should not let off the gas pedal. All that progress was made despite newbie inefficiencies. Imagine what another 10,000-hours of practice could build. Imagine doubling your time with the increased knowledge you have built over the initial ten years. The sky is the limit and the only thing restricting how high you will fly is yourself.
Motivational Tips for Achieving Your Goals
- Set a goal of where you want to be in ten years.
- Set interim weekly, monthly, and annual goals to keep you motivated.
- Understand that you only see successful people when they are at the top of the mountain, what you are not seeing is the time it took them to climb that mountain in the first place.
- Put in the work. The more work your goals require, the more rewarding those goals will be upon completion.
- Dream big because 10,000-hours later that once large dream may be a speck in your review mirror to success.