Putting In The Time

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.

6 thoughts on “Putting In The Time

  1. The book that I read this week (that your Kim suggested), A Thousand Splendid Suns was written by an author who was actually a physician. He wrote his first book, The Kite Runner, while he was still a practicing physician. He said that he wrote three hours a day BEFORE he got to work around 8:30 to see his patients. After the book was published, he realized that maybe he had found a new profession when he recognized that many of his patients were coming to see him with vague physical complaints, not become they required his medical services but because they wanted to discuss his book or to get him to sign copies for friends and family.


  2. I'm with you, Brett. The times that I have put everything I have into the writing everything in the background sort of crumbles. It's hard to get good writing time in when you have a family … and in your case a job! You're doing great at it, though. I love reading your blog.


  3. Well, thank you. I've found that my writing improves when I'm out doing activities away from the house, but have enough time back home to juggle thoughts and ideas.


  4. Putting in the time is key.I didn't become a really good programmer till i'd put in thousands of hours.Same goes for writing, singing, dancing, etc.Great reminder.Also a reminder to me why I still find this one of the best blogs around.Cheers,Todd@tojosan


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