In Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling and widely discussed book, Outliers: The Story of Success he talked about the 10,000 hours rule. In the book he cites a paper from American Scientist, by Herbert Simon and William Chase, noting that it takes between 10,000 and 50,000 hours to master something difficult. While the paper was primarily talking about chess masters like Bobby Fischer, Malcolm’s book also told the stories of successes like The Beatles, Bill Gates, and Canadian ice hockey players.
While the 10,000 hours rule has been widely debated, what’s clear is that there’s no such thing as an overnight sensation in mastering complex things or earning expertise. It takes a lot of focused practice, hard work, and deep thinking to become an expert at something and to do work that’s worthwhile.
Ray Dalio, the hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and author of Principles identifies that there are essentially two main life-driver types: people that want to make an impact on the world and people that want to soak-up life. For most people who work within the leadership or innovative worlds, or who orbit closely to these realms (entrepreneurs, designers, artists, strategists, planners, etc.) we want and need healthy portions of both impact and life-soaking. Ray identified this to be true for him, too.
“Music happens in the space between the notes” —Itzhak Perlman
The other 10,000 hours is the time we spend in-between the deep work and long hours of applied practice we do. It’s the hours we spend imagining, wondering, and living in the land of curiosity. It’s the time we spend thinking about our lives, our roles in the world, the impact we’re making, and the meaning of our work. It’s the incubative space between the thinking. It’s impossible to be curious and know something at the same time.
Experts and business leaders need to suspend their expertise—their knowings—in order to learn and innovate. Our best ideas often come to us when we’re in the shower, out for a walk, immersed in nature, or looking at a vast horizon—not at our desk. During this time our minds wander, we wonder consciously, and our imagination travels to places that it doesn’t typically go when at our desk or in meetings.
When immersed in this time we put together uncommon things. This time is both an investment and investigative. We connect ideas. We envision the impossible. We play with possibilities. We hold paradoxes. We think of solutions to the most perplexing challenges that we can’t or don’t do at our desk. We connect the world of mystery into the world of reality. This other 10,000 hours is the time we spend tethering and amplifying our expertise with more meaning and benefit. It’s worthwhile because when we reflect, we think bigger, broader and more profoundly.
By soaking up life we become more vital in our work.
It is the soaking up of life that feeds our expertise.
It’s the time and space for respite, relaxation, recreation, rejuvenation, and reflection. It is necessary for the real and beneficial work we do.
With the other 10,000 hours in mind, I pose these questions for you:
- What practices are designed within your organization to foster deep innovation?
- What are you doing, regularly, in your life to commit to these 10,000 hours?
- What are your daily, weekly, yearly rituals to nurture this?
- What are your organization’s practices to instigate this other 10,000 hours?
- What are you doing to ensure you’re feeding your expertise?
Onward & Forward! — Steven Morris