Tuesday, February 10, 2009

10,000 Hours

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers: The Story of Success, and found it quite interesting. In the book, he talks about how and why people become successful. He references studies of IQ, upbringing, circumstance, and even date of birth - and analyzes their potential relationship to becoming successful. There are lots of intriguing notions, the kind that make you think huh, and then sit there and ponder the idea. I was especially taken by the concept of 10,000 hours. That is the number of hours generally accepted to be necessary to become an expert in a field - the number of hours you need to put in to become a master of whatever it is that you do. I don't know if I have 10,000 hours painting or not, but I suspect I do, having done this for awhile now. Am I a master? Of a few things, yeah, I probably am. Do I have a lot to learn? Sure I do!

This past weekend I was teaching a group of women - we were working on claybord and a couple people became frustrated with their work. They wanted to create beautiful perfect work the first time. I told them about the 10,000 hour concept. I don't know if it reassured them or not. Possibly it might have pissed them off. But I truly think it is something to remember. We are living in this *instant* society, where it seems like everything is available absolutely on demand, to the point we expect that we can somehow learn by osmosis without putting in the hours. Short cuts abound.

I revel in the process, the journey, hour after hour. Creating layers one at a time. Building texture. Feeling the paint, watching it dry, playing with dripping ink. It's what I do; it's who I am. I have many many more hours to travel.

And, as an aside, I sincerely hope it doesn't take 10,000 hours before I can conquer my FLIP camcorder. I filmed on and off all weekend and hoped to show a little vignette for you today. Flip doesn't play well with mac or perhaps MB just hasn't figured it out yet.


  1. john is reading that book right now and keeps sharing little tid-bits from it with me...

    and hmmmm....all those hours to master something....well since I haven't read the book and the only thing that has consumed that much of my time is motherhood....I'd say they're wrong, as there is NO FUCKING WAY that I've mastered my full time job !!!

    now that many hours spent in nice, long hot showers....ohhh yeah, I've got that mastered alright !!!

  2. Interesting idea. It inspired me to write a blog post of my own about how putting in the hours towards mastery means that we no longer feel the need to count them...


  3. Just had a similar conversation with a dear friend, how wonderful to read it hear as well.

    I think many times I enjoy the process and journey more than a completed project. Might be why I have so many uncompleted projects filling the studio!!

  4. Anonymous9:41 PM

    Ohyes, I agree with the concept of allowing yourself to become immersed and learning the craft. It is a good concept to teach: practice! Found your blog via Facebook


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