While Malcolm Gladwell posited, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, that one needs to engage in a challenging 10,000 hours of experience and practice before becoming a master, don’t let the belief that you need to accrue all 10,000 hours of challenging practice and experience before you sell yourself as a social media maven.
All you need to do is know more than the person who hires you in order to become a professional. It is in taking the risk upon yourself to fake it ’til you make it, to make mistakes while you’re making magic, and in learning and knowing more so that you can win clients who are smarter and more sophisticated.
If people are asking you for help with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, reddit, blogging, Tumblr, WordPress, or anything else, you’re ready — to charge people for your time, expertise, insight, and creativity. Remember, 10,000 hours signifies mastery of the sort that is considered world-class — do you need to be the best in order to make a living?
No, you don’t.
You also don’t need to know the answer to everything in order to be ready to go pro. Your friends are resources as is the Internet and your larger social network. With experience comes an innate body of knowledge; however, don’t be fooled. Medical doctors and lawyers don’t know the answer to everything, either; case in point: House. They don’t know any of the answers, at first — but they puzzle it out.
And you can, too.
While 10,000 hours of increasingly-challenging study of the viola da gamba will probably get you to Carnegie Hall — practice, practice — is your goal, indeed, transcendent mastery or are you happy to play well enough that you can make a living being a musician?
Additionally, I believe that people are a little misinformed about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. It’s not like Scuba diving or flying an aircraft: the 10,000 hours of mastery are not accumulated like number of dives or flight time. That 10k is not billable hours you burn through by punching time-cards.
If you are, indeed, pursuing mastery (of social media, marketing, PR, light aircraft, diving, or the viola) then you need to constantly step it up. In order to become a master, you need to not only put in the time — of course, there are no short cuts, it’ll still take you all of those 600,000 minutes — but you need to constantly challenge yourself, take risks, try something new, innovate, interpret, create, expand, and move well out of your comfort zone.
The violinist Jascha Heifetz didn’t earn his 10,000 hours playing Chopsticks. There was a little Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky thrown in there. Maybe some Franz Liszt and Niccolò Paganini; Arnold Schoenberg and Béla Bartók for good measure.
And back to the Viola da Gamba, if you want to take a hint from Yo-Yo Ma, cross-training doesn’t hurt either. Other instruments and styles of music allow you to expand your experiential horizon while giving you a wider base upon which to do your pattern-recognizing and problem-solving.
If you haven’t read Outliers, Gladwell brings up the Beatles. They accrued their 10,000 hours by performing live in Hamburg, Germany, over 1,200 times. Not by practicing part-time but by really getting out there are working. They were professional musicians while they became masters. And you should, too, even if it’s in Hamburg brothels and flop-houses and not at Edelman or Ogilvy — that will come.
When artists and businessmen annoyingly talk about how important their suffering, depression, mental illness, and failure were to their ultimate success, I believe that some of the most important hours of those 10,000 hours are the hours when you really want to break that Stradivarius fiddle over the music stand — but don’t. Or do, but persevere. I believe that those manic all-nighters when you’re swept away by the Muse or just focused on solving an impossible riddle are essential to the craft; however, that’s not instead of practicing 8-hours-a-day, it’s in addition.
So, please don’t waste any more time with this article. You have 10,000 hours of something to pursue right now — and not for free. Please do not let Mastery get in the way of being better than the idiots around you. And remember, just because you think something’s easy or simple in no way means that it is — it’s only easy for you. Other people either don’t care enough to do the work like you have, don’t have your gift and natural affinity, or they’re just too dim.
Good luck and if you’re going to aspire to mastery, take advice from John, Paul, George, and Ringo: do it for money, do it in Hamburg, and do it in brothels. Viel Glück, mein Student, und gute Reise!