In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell studied the “outliers” – i. e., the most successful people of the world, including sportsmen, business people, musicians and scientists, to understand key factors behind their success. He found the key denominator to all their success isn’t natural aptitude as many like to believe. Having a high IQ doesn’t guarantee success : There is supposedly no difference in people’s propensity to success beyond an IQ of 130.
The key denominator is actually hard work. A lot of it, in fact. About 10,000 hours of it. That’s roughly 3 hours every day, for 10 consecutive years, before any one of them began to be defined as the ‘expert’ in their field.
This finding doesn’t come across as shocking. I feel the concept of natural talent has become overrated, right along with self-discipline. Often times, I see people around letting go of their dreams because they do not have
the “talent”. Having an innate ability is definitely a nice bonus and great enabler, but the role it plays is lesser than what many may think.
While the aptitude to get an initial head start, beyond a certain stage, success becomes increasingly dependent on your attitude and the amount of work you put in, much more so than your aptitude. Hard work becomes the key determinant in the long haul. As Thomas Edison puts it: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.
As what Malcolm has found, even in fields such as sports and music where many see the key to success as having an innate ability, consistent hard work has proven to be the more superior factor by far. This is the case for many established names, such as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Johnny Wilkinson, Bill Gates, Beatles, Beethoven and Madonna. For most (if not all) of them, their hard work started right as a kid. It was through relentless training since young before they attained their level of expertise today.
Here are specific examples of how top performers came to develop their talent through hard work:
#1. Victoria Pendleton’s emphatic gold in the women’s sprint cycling in Beijing came only after humiliating defeat in Athens four years ago. After training for four hours a day, six days a week the 27-year-old finally reaped the rewards. (from Times Online)
#2. Rebecca Adlington, the 19-year-old swimmer who won two gold medals at the Beijing Games, has put in an estimated 8,840 hours of training since the age of 12. (from Times Online)
#3. The Beatles burst onto the world stage in the 1960s, seemingly lifted from their hometown of Liverpool and dropped into the world’s biggest venues. But theirs was not an overnight success. One of the Beatles’ early gigs was performing near military bases in Hamburg, Germany; they would perform for eight hours a day, seven days a week. They did this for 270 days over the course of 18 months. By the time the Beatles enjoyed their first commercial success in 1964, they had performed 1,200 times, which is more than most bands today perform in their careers. When the Beatles first left for Germany, they weren’t very good. But by the time their Hamburg stints ended, they sounded like no other band in the world. They were well on their way to getting in their 10,000 hours. (from RCM)
#4. Generally regarded as a savant or a computer genius, Gates has a 10,000-hour story, too. Gates had the good fortune to attend a private school in Seattle that had a computer club. This was 1968, when most universities did not have a computer club.