Why the First 9,999 Hours are the Most Important

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When Malcom Gladwell wrote Outliers: The Story of Success (amazon link) he wrote not about the type of personality traits that a successful person exuded but the work done to become successful.  Most notably was the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of anything.

10,000 hours is a long time.  That’s 417 full days work.  That’s 250 solid 40-hour work weeks.  That’s 5 years of solid 40-hour work weeks taking into account your two weeks of vacation…

That is 10,000 hours of focused time on a task.  Now take those 40-hour work weeks and carve out paperwork time.  Then subtract all the time you spend BS-ing with your co-workers.  Finally carve out the time you spend surfing the Internet for music, celebrity gossip and sports stats (you can count time reading RyanHanley.com).

In truth, you might put in, maybe, 20 – 25 hours of focused work to your craft a week.  I’m not going to go through all the math again but let’s just agree that it takes a long time, if it’s not impossible, to become a master at your craft doing what is expected of you and nothing more.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate Practice is not my original thought.  I am not the type of blogger who regurgitates other people’s thoughts very often but I have become very enamored to the way Paul Wolfe goes about his business and I think his thoughts on this particular topic are important to share.

Read Paul’s original work at: Deliberate Practice for Content Marketers and Bloggers

flickr via Jeff Hester

The idea is simple.  Everyone wants to become a master of something and what that something is doesn’t really matter.   You have to practice with a purpose and you have to push yourself when you practice to get better.  Paul talks about three zones of practice: The Comfort Zone, The Learning Zone, and The Panic Zone.

No matter how many hours of practice you put in if you stay in The Comfort Zone you cannot become a master.  Paul uses an example from his work as Bass Guitar teacher.  You can practice scales all day long, but your ability to play scales does not define you as a master bass guitar player.

Deliberate practice is consistently pushing yourself past the comfort zone to what Paul calls the Learning Zone.  An ever increasing learning zone will someday give you the opportunity to be a master.

Here are a couple additional thoughts on Practice and Success I think are worth reading:

Sonia Simone of CopyBlogger: 5 Keys to Content Marketing Mastery

Seth Godin: Worth It

Uncomfortable Success

I call this process Uncomfortable Success…  The desire to continually place yourself in uncomfortable situations with the expectation of personal and/or professional growth.

I recently spoke on the topic at a business meeting: The Important of being Uncomfortable in Professional Growth (Youtube video).

Uncomfortable does not mean impossible, it means uncomfortable.  I am comfortable speaking in front of 100 people about how I use new technology tools to build relationships (check my availability here or download my flyer [download id="4"]).  But writing a book has been a very uncomfortable process for me.  I’ve written and deleted and re-written and gone in different directions about 30 times now.  I hope someday that writing a book will not be an uncomfortable process for me (actually I hope to always have a little bit of uncomfortableness. That’s how you know it means something).

In insurance there was a time when I was very uncomfortable sitting across for a couple discussing their personal insurance program.  Now I LOVE the opportunity to do that but reviewing, researching, building, and presenting a commercial insurance program for a large regional business owner still makes me a little uncomfortable.

What are you doing that makes you uncomfortable but expands your growth either personally or professionally?  Is it cold calling?  Is it writing blog posts?  Is it attending new networking functions?  Maybe you will be presenting at a Trade Association Meeting?

Maybe you are taking on a new product line for your business or expanding into a new competitive market?  Whatever it is understand that the uncomfortable feeling you have in the pit of your stomach while you do these things is GROWTH!  That feeling is your body’s way of expressing your emotional and psychological growth and it is a good feeling.

You are a becoming a better you!  And I am so happy for you.  How freaking awesome is it to step into a situation that used to make you feel uncomfortable and be able to tell yourself, “I own this shit now…!”

It’s OK to admit it… You feel like a Gangster.  You feel accomplishment.  That is a good feeling.  The feeling of accomplishment is addicting.

That is why the first 9,999 hours are the most important.  You have to put in that time, Deliberately (thank you Paul) and Uncomfortably, but that 10,000th hour is so sweet.

The Rub

I have not achieved master status in anything… yet (My wife would disagree and say BS-ing).  But I have felt my Comfort Zone grow and I LOVE that feeling.

I have refereed over 2,000 high school basketball games.  At first a freshman game would make me sweat.  This year I have a full Varsity schedule with my eyes on attending a College Camp this summer.  Each level of play along the way is very uncomfortable.  But with mastery of each individual level there has been a feeling of accomplishment.

Do something uncomfortable today that you know will help your professional growth.  Go do it and then come back here and tell me about it.  Tell everyone that reads this blog about it and hopefully that will encourage more people to grow.

Then we all grow…

Thank you.

written by: Ryan Hanley

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  • I couldn’t agree with you more. You have to fail in order to be successful. If you are afraid of failing you will not succeed.

    I’m curious…how many hours do you think you have present day? The reason I ask is because you are a mentor to me and I’m modelling as much as I can and applying it to my NLP based coaching practice.

    I’d love to use your number of hours as a benchmark if you think that’s a good idea.

    Keep sharing…I’ll keep consuming!

    Matthew

    • Matthew, Great question… So you’re asking how many hours have I put into my own online presence at this point?

      I’d say I have ~4,000 hours in right now between the different properties I work with…

      Hanley

  • [...] original article: Why the First 9,999 Hours are the Most Important Tags: guitar, health, health-insurance, insurance, internet, learning, love, marketing, [...]

  • Ryan

    Deliberate Practice is an interesting topic – as you know it’s one I’m very interested in.  However be careful you don’t get sucked into the ’10,000 Hours’ vortex of despair!  The 10,000 Hours to be a virtuoso is a good figure to know about – because you can directly see what level of work you would need to put in in order to be recognized as a master.  (The original study was about violinists – so the word used was virtuoso.)

    What’s MORE important (IMHO) is that the criteria that Ericsson unearthed and codified as Deliberate Practice can also be used to get better at something.  You don’t necessarily have to become a master to get better at something and benefit from it.

    For example, let’s say you started using Content Marketing to get clients for your Insurance Business.  Firstly I’d say you’d be ahead of a lot of your competitors because I bet not many are using Content Marketing.  But if you identified the elements that you’d need to work on to ‘crush it’ at content marketing and prioritized them and then spent say 60 minutes a day working at your skill levels, well at the end of a year (and just 365 hours worth of study) I’d be willing to bet you’d be in the top few per cent of Insurance Related Content Marketers.

    This is why the study of Deliberate Practice is so important – it unlocks the code to getting better at ANYTHING.  And you can then choose what specific areas to work on – and outrun your competition.  I like Sonia’s line in her article: “If there’s a bear chasing a you and a friend you don’t have to outrun the bear, you jsut got to outrun your friend.”

    Here’s a truth few people like to hear: most people are lazy.  You can bet your bottom dollar that few people will be prepared to put in even an hour of disciplined deliberate practice a day. You’ll soon overtake your competitors – the laws of compound interest will do the rest.

    Paul

    • Paul,

      This is the power right here “This is why the study of Deliberate Practice is so important – it unlocks the code to getting better at ANYTHING.” That is the power.  

      I am so enamored by this concept… And I et what you are saying about the 10,000 hours.  You don’t want hold that number in your head as the be all end all… but the idea of the time it takes to become great at something. It takes work, Deliberate work, Deliberate practice…

      I love it.

      Thank you for sharing you are an amazing resource on this topic!

  • Great post. I couldn’t agree more with uncomfortable success. I’m typing this as I put off cold calling!

  • Why the First 9,999 Hours are the Most Important…

    I call this process Uncomfortable Success… The desire to continually place yourself in uncomfortable situations with the expectation of personal and/or professional growth….