Become The Best At Something

Malcolm Gladwell has a theory about you. He thinks where and when you were born play a major role in how successful you will be in life. He also thinks that becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work, and that the hard work you do is more important than where or when you were born.

I did the math: 10,000 hours is about 416 day. If you practices non-stop for 13 months, you would become a superstar. Doesn’t sound too bad when you look at it like that.

But we all take breaks now and then, right? So, in reality, it’s going to take us a lot longer than a year to become great at something. If you practiced 8 hours a day, every day, it would take you 3.4 years to reach 10,000 hours. Practice 4 hours a day and you’re looking at just shy of 7 years before you reach the mark. Practice 2 hours and it’s going to take you 13.6 years to become brilliant.

Not every niche needs 10,000 hours to accomplish greatness. The more established a market is, Seth Godin points out, the harder it becomes to get through “The Dip.” If the market is small or novel, The Dip is shallower and requires fewer hours to establish credibility the marketplace.

The Dip that Seth refers to is the time when a new project seems hopeless and doomed to failure. In fitness terms, it’s that week (or month or several months) about half-way toward your goal when, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to hit a new personal record. The weight doesn’t come off; your bench press doesn’t increase; you just can’t figure out why everything seems so damn heavy.

Get past The Dip and glory abounds. But that’s the hard part. It’s so much easier to give up and walk away. “Too bad,” you tell yourself. “Maybe next time.”

Yeah, maybe there will be a next time. And maybe there won’t. Maybe the earth will blow up before you get your chance and then you’re out of luck. It’s like in the movies: nobody wants to die a virgin.

Don’t rely on Next Time being there. Act and act now. Push through the pain, push through the disgust and claw you way to victory, kicking and screaming if you have to. I dare you to do something momentous today.

When was the last time you went through The Dip? Why didn’t you give up and walk away?

8 Responses to “Become The Best At Something”
  1. Derek;
    This 419 word article captures the essence of the “whys” & “hows” of staying focused for success! Great job!

    Bob Esquerre

  2. Pam says:

    Love the idea of “the dip” … and the dare:
    Don’t rely on Next Time being there. Act and act now. Push through the pain, push through the disgust and claw you way to victory, kicking and screaming if you have to. I dare you to do something momentous today.


  3. Derek Peruo says:

    I’m so glad this post resonates with you guys. Thanks for posting your comments. I appreciate the feedback.

  4. Derek, I loved Outliers! Actually all of Gladwell’s books are outstanding and what a great idea of yours to break down the math. Thank you for the inspiration: your blog inspired me to write about a recent experience I had and what it showed me about accomplishment when the going gets tough. I’ll post it on my Facebook Page by early next week if you’d like to stop by:)

  5. I guess it wuld help if I included the address!

    Like I said, it’ll be up early next week.
    Have a great weekend!

    • Derek Peruo says:

      Nice page, Ilene. Go NYC! I grew up in Manhattan, you know…

      Question for you: How do you incorporate public speaking into your training programs? Is it a separate service from your fitness programs?

      I’m looking for the article you spoke of on your Facebook page… What is the title of the post?

  6. Ilene says:

    Hi Derek,

    I did not know you are a native NYer. How great! Where did you grow up?

    The public speaking courses and coaching are separate services. Sometimes they do cross over though usually not in the same session :)

    I do work with a lot of people in the wellness, health and fitness fields on public speaking, presenting, and how to step up their educational programs to their own students. This is through coaching and my live training, EmpowerSpeak. Working with practitioners, academics and educators has become a niche specialty of mine because I speak the same language and I understand the ins and outs of our profession. So many people in our field want to expand into presenting, developing their own educational systems and products, etc., so there’s tremendous opportunity these days.

    The direct link to New View for 2010 (that’s the title) posted on our Facebook wall is:
    There’s a typo in the 8th paragraph. Hope to fix it soon!

    Thanks for your curiosity :)

    • Derek Peruo says:

      I grew up downtown, and moved to Chicago for college. I still miss NYC very much. “Can’t take the city out of the boy,” or something like that…

      I, too, went rafting once. But it was for beginners and the water was very calm, so it was more like “paddling” really.

      I read your facebook article and this paragraph really spoke to me:

      There are moments when I look at my life and I do not feel successful. I look at my efforts and the results of those efforts, as well as things that have occurred through happenstance and I feel it is not enough. Even while my mind is telling me that this is not in line with my philosophy on success, I hear the “shoulds” passing though like a weather front.

      So true… So true…

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