Consider for a moment the talents you possess.
You may be skilled at playing the piano. Maybe you’re a talented dancer. My father excelled at working with teens. My father-in-law knows more about computers than anyone I know. Both of them made careers doing work they enjoyed and were talented at.
How much time each day do you spend practicing your most valuable talents?
I’ve been watching the World Cup over the past few weeks. Soccer is not a sport I follow on a regular basis, and I’ve enjoyed listening to the back stories of the players. Teams like England, Brazil, Spain and Argentina are filled with some of the best athletes in the world.
There’s no doubt players like Messi, Ronaldo, and Kaka were born with athletic talent. But each of them spent their youth living and breathing soccer. When they weren’t eating or sleeping they were out in the streets or fields kicking the ball around. They’ve spent the majority of their lives perfecting their talents through many hours of practice.
I recently read a book by Stephen King called On Writing. One theme that came through loud and clear was how much work he put in before he become successful. Many people have asked for his advice on becoming a successful writer. As if all one must do is swallow a magic pill. His reply is blunt:
Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.
Bill Simmons is a writer for ESPN. He is my favorite writer, and the one who has influenced me the most. On one of his podcasts he mentioned how much his writing suffers if he doesn’t put in at least four to six hours a day. And this from a guy who has written thousands of columns and several books. Try reading this piece he wrote about his dog without shedding a tear.
I’m reminded of a book I read last year from Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers. Gladwell posits the “10,000 Hour Rule” which suggests success is based less on talent but more in putting in the hours, specially 10,000 of them. That’s 20 hours a week for 10 years.
He cites a number of examples including the Beatles who perfected their craft by playing hundreds of shows in Germany before hitting it big in the states. Or the many hours Bill Gates spent programming on an ASR-33 Teletype as a young boy.
Both the Beatles and Gates were talented. But all those hours of practice along with excellent timing allowed them to rise to the top in their fields.
I certainly haven’t spent even close to 10,000 hours writing. I’m still working to get to 20 hours a week. I’m currently at half that but moving in the right direction.
I wish I’d started earlier.