10,000 Hours to Living on Purpose

Editor’s Note: It’s not often that I get a review request I can’t refuse, but this was definitely one of them. Jacob Sokol of Sensophy offered to let me share an excerpt from his new guide, Living on Purpose – An Uncommon Guide to Finding, Living, and Rocking Your Life’s Purpose and created this great video intro for it! I hope you enjoy it!

10,000 Hours, an excerpt from Living on Purpose

“You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
-Steve Jobs

What I’ve experienced is that taking on a new direction in life can be as scary as Satan’s breath. It’s intimidating to think about “starting over” in a new field where things are much less certain. I mean, when I look at my life now, I’m a fulltime writer and I’ve never even taken a writing class in my life. Not only that, it wasn’t like I’ve been writing pen-pal letters to people in Persia for the last 20 years. It’s something I just noticed I liked, noticed I was good at, and decided I wanted to do more of.

It’s especially scary when you leave behind something you ROCK at. Walking away from
what you make money at to do something you love is a big leap because you’re not gonna start out as Picasso. You’re gonna start out as Peligro. (You see, you’ve never heard of that dude.)

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embark on a new journey. If it makes you come alive, and a fire lights in your soul at the prospect of pursuing this passion, then don’t be discouraged. Know that the road will require a ton of traction, and sometimes you might get a flat tire, and it sucks when the air spits out uncontrollably, and you may feel like shit on the side of the road while everyone else is zipping along, but that’s the phenomenon called LIFE. Sometimes you’ll ride her like a rodeo, and sometimes the best thing to do is be still and breathe. Whatever the moment calls for, you’re gonna have to learn to adapt. It’s the hero’s journey.

The dope thing is that if you’re doing something you’re truly passionate about, and it’s something that makes you come alive, and it’s something that you light up at the idea of indulging in — then what’s the rush to be the best?

Here’s something that’s helped me out a lot in the last few years when things seemed intimidating. It’s the concept of 10,000 hours.

10,000 Hours Concept

What researchers are noticing is that there seems to be a pattern amongst “the greats.”
It’s most easily identifiable specifically amongst our “amazing idols” who are deemed to be the world’s top talent.

Essentially, the 10,000-hour theory says that no great accomplishment has been achieved without a minimum of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. For anyone other than advanced mathematic geeks, 10,000 hours equals about four hours of practice per day, five days per week, for every week of the next 10 years. That means until you’re consciously practicing something for a few hours each day for a decade straight, don’t expect to produce greatness in that field.

Kinda takes the pressure off you to produce something extraordinary right now.

It makes me feel like if I just dedicate my time to doing what I love most, every day, for a long, long, long time, one day, I’ll be great at it. But I need to know that without deliberate practice, persistence, and patience, it probably won’t happen.

Let’s look at the difference between talent and skill – two words that sound similar but have very different definitions.

Talent is natural ability — either you’re born with it or you’re not. Skill, on the other hand, is developed ability — it’s taking what you’re naturally given and working the water outta it until it turns into dehydrated fruit salad. (Okay — not my best metaphor.) Here’s what most people, including myself, seem to forget (or not know):

Talent is overrated… Skill is underestimated.

That means that although some people might be born with inherent talents, overall, it doesn’t suggest they’re more inclined to be successful or great — quite the opposite, actually. It’s the person who’s born with a moderate set of skills and churns, twists and works what God gave them who’s most likely to do great things.

Don’t give up on your dreams because you have to work for them. Find something that’s
worth working for, and then enjoy the process of doing the work, because that’s where you’ll be spending the most significant amount of your time.

Let’s drill this concept down deeper with a couple of crisp examples from figures who are
embedded into our lives as god-like heroes.

Case Study Number One

Air Jordan; Mr. Michael Jordan is without a doubt the best basketball player of all time. I don’t think you’re gonna find too many people who disagree with that, and if you do, they probably got banged on (dunked on!) by him at one point in their life. Dude is the best to ever do it. It’s pretty common knowledge.

Well here’s what’s NOT common knowledge: MJ not only wasn’t the best b-ball player in the world when he was growing up, he wasn’t even the best player in his town. Even more, MJ wasn’t even the best player in his school. In fact, MJ didn’t even make the damn high-school team in his sophomore year!!!

Did he give up and say, “Oh, too bad I suck butthole at basketball”?

NOPE!

Here’s what he did. Mike started showing up to school to practice at 6 a.m. He’d work his Hanes off day in and day out, most nights not coming home until 10 p.m. from practice. MJ diligently dedicated himself to deliberately practicing his craft. He wasn’t born the best in the world. He wasn’t even born the best in his family (his brother was a better player than he was!). But he put in the time needed to finally make his high-school team.

And the rest is history right?

NOPE!

He went to college, did his thing, and when it came time to get drafted into the NBA, he
wasn’t the number-one draft pick. In fact, MJ wasn’t even number two! He was the number-three pick!

And even once in the NBA, it took THE BEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME six years until he finally won his first championship ring. How many damn hours do you think that took?

Case Study Number Two

Mozart. Dude is recognized as one of the best classical music composers of all time. And I’m not debating that. In fact, I don’t really know too much about classical music to begin with so who the hell am I to say that Beethoven wouldn’t beat him over the head with a broomstick (figuratively speaking of course)? But here’s what I do know…

People think Mozart was some type of unbelievably talented musical genius. In fact I don’t blame them for thinking that. He composed some of the most revered classical symphonies by the time he was just 14 years old. But what people don’t know is that it wasn’t so much that Mozart was born an extraordinary musician – it was that he was born into an extraordinary set of circumstances.

Did you know that Mozart’s dad was one of the best children’s classical music teachers in the world at the time of Mozart’s birth? Mozart was literally surrounded by world-class music from the moment he came outta the womb. And by the age of four, he had composed his first symphony. My guess is, it sucked. I mean, props to him, but he was four freaking years old.

What’s interesting enough, though, is that 10 years and more than 10,000 hours later, as Mr. Mozart was turning 14, he composed his first classical masterpiece!

Whoa… so maybe he wasn’t so “naturally” talented. He just took the time to sharpen his skill set with ridiculous dedication to deliberately practicing his trade.

Case Study Number 3

Here’s a fun one. Ever hear of a little rock group called The Beatles? Naaah, me either. Well, it turns out that The Beatles played for almost eight hours a day, seven days a week, for a couple of years before anyone ever really heard of them (Did you get the whole “heard of them” play-on-words thing I just did?).

Here’s what Daniel Gilbert says in his book Emotional Intelligence:

“Studies of Olympic athletes, world-class musicians, and chess grand masters find their
unifying trait is the ability to motivate themselves to pursue relentless training routines… likewise the best violin virtuosos of the twentieth century began studying their instrument at around age five; international chess champions started on the game at an average age of seven, while those who rose only to national prominence started at ten.

Starting earlier offers a lifetime edge: the top violin students at the best music academy
in Berlin, all in their early twenties, had put in ten thousand hours lifetime practice, while the second-tier students averaged around seventy-five hundred hours.

What seemed to set apart those at the very top of competitive pursuits from others of roughly equal ability is the degree to which, beginning early in life, they can pursue an arduous practice routine for years and years. And that doggedness depends on emotional traits—enthusiasm and persistence in the face of setbacks—above all else.”

Did you get that? It wasn’t that they started young that mattered. It was that they put in the 10,000 hours of practice! And the thing that determined if they had it in them to last so long was how enthusiastic they were (especially in the face of setbacks).

That’s why it’s so important to focus your deliberate practice on doing something that you love. Think about it. What do you love sooo much that you would actually pay to do it every day for the next 10 years of your life?!

(For more on the 10,000 hours concept, dig into: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Gilbert
and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.)

When I think of what I’ve really excelled at in my life, I think of being skilled with computers. I basically walked my way into my last computer job with no “on-the-job” experience. I came in with a clear head, an eagerness to grow, and a ton of experience from screwing up so many computers in my past.

The thing is, I got my first computer back in 1995, when I was 10 years old (there you have it ladies, my age — revealed). Within a year, I was trying to build Web sites while working on kicking people offline. I downloaded all types of illegal programs, like “AOLHell,” and I thought I was the most intimidating 11-year-old on the Internet. But in those troubling preteen years, I definitely caused more damage to my own computer than to any other rival nerd I ever found around the net.

The point is, I’ve been using computers from the time I was 10. It wasn’t all that commonplace back then, and by the time I was 21, I had put in my 10,000 hours of deliberately screwing around for sure. So when I walked in for my interview, I knew just enough to be able to get my ass in the seat. I got the job, and in just the next four years, I probably put in another 20,000 hours dedicating my existence to making myself better at what I loved (and getting paid to do so).

People talk to me now and think I’m a computerized-nerd guru-genius but the truth is, I just found something I loved and obsessed about it until I became great at it.

I walked in the door making $12 an hour, and two years later, I was earning a grown man’s salary. Not bad for a 23-year-old who walked in off the street.

The point I’m making is that you shouldn’t expect the reward to come instantaneously.
In fact, do yourself a favor and don’t expect any major accomplishments until you’ve put your 10,000 hours in. But if you’re able to become cool with not getting all the external acknowledgement and rewards, you can create a life around doing what you love.

You can learn how to free up your time. You can learn how to reduce your expenses. You can learn how to make decisions based on your own value system.

Don’t expect to be the best overnight. But learn to love the process of doing what you love and before you know it, 10 years later, you can be a genius at what excites you!

10 years might seem like a long time now, but this is your life we’re talking about. And in
actuality, you’re gonna live those next 10 years anyway. No matter what age you are now, this is equally as applicable. And if you have less than 10 years of your life left to live, at least you’ll be doing what you love most!

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to pick what it is you love. And not just one-night-stand love. Not just looks-good-on-the-outside-but-has-no-substance-on-the-inside love. This is like marriage-and-four-kids commitment to love. This is like your-mama-giving-birth-to-you love.

This is spending-the-next-10-years-of-your-life-together love.

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Comments

  1. says

    Interesting post! there’s nothing more convincing than the power of example, and in your post you have plenty of it. This and a an easy-going writing style kept me engrossed until the last line. Not bad for a 26 old blogger :)

    Anyway, practice and ambition can definitely make up for the lack of talent, so if you really want something, being diligent is the key. Of course, you also need to enjoy what you do.

  2. says

    I really enjoyed this post. I have known some people with fantastic talent, but they didn’t have the drive to follow through and spend the time to promote themselves or their talent. Therefore, their talent remained a hobby, which isn’t bad, but they could have done so much more with a little more effort.

    Thanks for the post. Sally
    Sally Brown just posted Roaring Across The Blogosphere!

  3. says

    Thank you for this! I learned about Gladwell’s 10,000 hour concept when Outliers first came out and it impressed upon me that no one is so gifted that they require no practice. The 10,000 hour concept taught me that failure is the most important thing that can happen so you can learn from and right your mistakes. Thank you for hammering this in!
    Chicago SEO just posted SEO You Should Know: Volume 3, Duplicate Listings

  4. says

    Jacob,

    I like where you’re going with this. In fact, this is kind of refreshing. I’ve thought like this for a while, have spent a lot of time reading a crap load of personal development books, even study brain science and NLP and it’s nice to see someone talking about this kind of stuff. I was never for the self help over emphasizers, or the magic formula sellers because everyone’s sich is different. But it seems like you’re talking real practical stuff, that makes good sense bro. I’m sure I’ll get around to checking out your guide man. Keep rocking.

  5. says

    Jacob, it’s a pleasure to meet you here at Kristi’s home – I’ve heard your name bandied around before, but hadn’t got round to finding out more, until now ;-)

    The whole idea of 10,000 hours was first introduced to me by Paul Wolfe over at One Spoon At A Time, and since then I’ve gone back to the source(s) such as Outliers and Emotional Intelligence. It’s a fascinating concept, and one which backs up the unofficial theory of ‘hard work leads to success’.

    Thing is, 10,000 hours can be reached in different time periods for different people. Someone can reach 10,000 in 10 years, someone else in 20 years. Do you think this makes a difference to the level of success that they achieve?

    Be interested to hear your thoughts on this Jacob :-)
    Stuart just posted The Incredible Benefits Of Saying No

  6. says

    I’d heard this concept of 10,000 hours a very long time ago. It’s not a bad concept, but it’s not always true either. I mean, 10,000 hours will make someone very good at something, but it will never totally make them proficient if they didn’t have some talent already. A person that wants to be a great point guard can spend 10,000 hours dribbling a basketball, but still might not have the acumen to be a professional. I used to play piano 5 hours a day and did that for nearly 5 years, including weekends, and I got really good but never concert-performance good.

    I say this not to put down the concept but to offer the fact that reality still has to be a part of the process, and that everyone can’t just up and do everything just because they put all their time and effort into it. You’ll get better, even pretty good, but if it’s really not for you then there will be a limit.

    Love stuff like this; gets people thinking.
    Mitch Mitchell just posted The Personal Failing Of Health Care

  7. says

    I am really interested if this theory of 10,000 hours works about everything in life? If i want something so much in life, will I get it if I desire it 10, 000 hours and every day and a lot?

  8. says

    This reminds me of a book i once read; I can’t remember the author thought. It’s a rule that all great men (and women) that we remembered in history had one thing in common–they spent 10,000hrs doing that thing. So he argues that if you want to be an expert at something, do it for 10,000hrs. That’s what is required to make it at whatever field it is. For fun: that means that if you spend 8hrs everyday (sat and sun too) doing whatever it is, it would take you 3.4yrs to reach 10,000hrs.
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  9. says

    Firstly I don’t think the Beatles realistically logged anywhere near 10,000 hours before blowing up. By the time they were called The Beatles and had their classic lineup, it was 1962, the same year they exploded into the mainstream with “Love Me Do”. They were considered a “boy band” by adults, critics and serious musicians at this time and would put in years before gaining the respect of critics and other musicians; but the money, fame, girls, etc had already come, rather quickly, before logging 10,000 hours.

    >>>who the hell am I to say that Beethoven wouldn’t beat him over the head with a broomstick

    Secondly Mozart is perhaps the most overrated classical musician of all time :-)
    It is J. S. Bach who would be doing the bludgeoning of Mozart’s head with a broomstick

  10. says

    Tennis player, Novak Djokovic is a good example of this theory. He is a talented player, there’s no mistake about it, but there is a YouTube video of him when he was only 6. He was interviewed for some kid’s show and at that recording he says that he “practices the whole day and plays with his toys by night.” He finishes that interview with the answer on the question what he wants to be when he grows up – “I want to be the best.”
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