Have you ever heard of the 10,000 Hours rule? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book: Outliers: The Story of Success, the 10,000 hours rule states that world-class expertise in any skill set is achieved by practicing the correct way for roughly 10,000 hours. This applies to world-class athletes, chess players, programmers, lawyers, investors and just about anything you can think of.
Now, not everyone has to or even wants to be world-class at anything. But, in the world we live in, where we each work around 2,000 hours every year, and most Americans work for 40-50 years (or more), that is a whopping 80,000 hours. So at some point in our adult lives, don’t you feel like you deserve the fulfillment of being really, really good at something? Especially the thing that you spend a third of your day doing? And I’m not talking about sleeping.
I see a lot of young people get hired as associate software engineers right out of college, or right out of a software boot camp, and they are completely unprepared. Software engineering or not, it is the same in many industries, whether it is finance, law, education, accounting, or whatever, there seems to be a lack of drive, motivation, and excitement, all replaced with a significant amount of entitlement. It’s incredible. They PAID to go to school to learn about a certain subject. They went to class, did the homework took the tests. They did the bare minimum and now they think they are set for life. They get the job and now that they are GETTING PAID to become an expert in their focus, they simply give up and hold out their hand.
People like this often ask things like “WOW! How did you get so good at this,” or “How did you get so smart?” The people on the other end of these questions think to themselves “Well I’ve been busting my ass for 10 years, that’s how.” If you’re are the person who wonders why others around them are kicking ass every day and getting promoted every year, while you stay in the same place, I’ve got news for you… No one is going to teach you how to do your job.
Workdays in the office are typically about 8 hours. But, many people probably only get 4 hours or less of productive work done during the day. They come in at 9 am, get their coffee, hang out in the break room and shoot the shit, go to their desk, take 15 minutes to get settled, look at cat videos on YouTube and get started at 10 am. At some point, they need more coffee and hang out in the break room some more and before you know it it’s time for lunch. The afternoon, looks mostly the same, completely unproductive, taking breaks to look at social media, or shooting the shit for another 30 minutes before stopping real work at 4, and leaving by 5.
It’s amazing that corporate America looks like this but it does. Open floor plans, email, instant messaging and pointless meetings make getting real, productive work nearly impossible. So how would you expect to actually learn how to do your new job in this kind of environment? You probably won’t even bother. You’ll see how unproductive the whole thing is and think you can probably just coast along, but then one day you realize, some people were actually getting things done and you somehow got left behind. If you really want to get ahead, stand out, and bring exceptional value to your employer, you need to learn your job and hone your skills. Doing this at the office just isn’t enough in competitive industries.
I wish it wasn’t so but that’s just the way it is. It would be amazing to just hunt and gather a few hours a few times a week like humans used to do thousands of years ago. If you are single and don’t have any kids, there is more than enough time in the day for you to get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy, exercise, work, focus on your personal development, and hang out with your friends. You just need to prioritize your time. If you are working at your first professional job, you better be taking that home with you. I’m not talking about putting in unpaid hours at home, though you can. All that matters is that you take time to hone your craft, outside of the office.
You should be reading books on sales tactics, real estate, war strategy, investing, history, or whatever it is that relates to your career. You need to learn how to actually learn. Forget about how college works, because in real life no one is going to spoon-feed you information and pay you to regurgitate it back. You need to identify the skills you need day after day at work and figure out how to practice them in a reproducible, rewarding, and exciting way. You need to learn how to quickly identify failure, learn from it, try again and repeat.
After a few years of this, plus putting in productive time in the workplace, you will be approaching 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. You’ll be confident in your skillset and your ability to execute and deliver value to your employer and it’s customers. You’ll blaze past others in your office and feel incredible satisfaction and fulfillment from whatever it is that you do.
Your job or career doesn’t need to be your passion but, if you want true fulfillment and satisfaction each day, you do need to be eager, excited, and driven enough to get better at it. Some of the worst career advice is to “follow your passion”. Cal Newport discusses this in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. You need to develop career capital through deliberate practice and adopt a “craftsman mindset.” You need to become the best at what you do, at first on your team, then in your office or your entire company.
Passions change all the time, but skills like organization, public speaking and problem-solving are identifiable at an early age. If you can identify your skillset and a market that demands them, and put in the work to develop those skills, your skills will compound year over year leading to immense satisfaction in whatever it is that you do. Your passion will become you, yourself, and there is nothing more fulfilling than that.
Becoming excellent at what you do means that getting even better is even easier. Once your skills, productivity, and ability to execute become apparent to you and those around you, promotions, raises, and bonuses will simply be given to you, or your confidence in yourself will make asking for them incredibly easy. Increasing your income at such a fast rate quickly allows you to accrue Fuck You Money. FU money, combined with FU skills will change your entire life, allowing you to easily find new employment at better places so that you can grow even more. You will never have a feeling that you might get fired or lose your job, and if you do, you’ll have no problem finding a new one. Anyone can get to this point, but no one is going to push you to get there, you’re going to have to do it yourself.