Practice makes pretty good?

OutliersI read Malcolm Gladwell’s 2011 book Outliers: The Story of Success pretty much the minute it came out, because I’d heard it dealt in part with the link between school age and academic success, and my eldest child was just about to start kindergarten. What I remember most about it, however, is the section on the 10,000-Hour Rule. The idea is that there’s a direct correlation between some ten thousand hours of practice and elite-level success. It worked for the Beatles, Gladwell says, along with Bill Gates.

Yesterday, Fast Company ran an article “debunking” the 10,000-Hour Rule “myth.” Citing a new study, it noted that “practice is great! But practice alone won’t make you Yo Yo Ma.”

Certainly there’s more to success than practice alone. Natural ability, instinct, early exposure – these factors and others all come into play. That said, I hope that readers of the article won’t come away thinking there’s no hope – particularly with regard to writing. Sure, it might take someone else far less time to write that first marketable book, or pen an article polished enough to be picked up by a major magazine. But write every day, in every way, and you will succeed. The point of Outliers isn’t to offer a guarantee, but to highlight the many, many cases in which thousands of hours of hard work produced a superior result.

There’s a great quote in the book from Bill Gates in which he calls computer programming “my obsession.” Make writing your obsession, and start racking up those hours.

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