Finally, A Magic Number For Success: 10,000 Hours

by / ⠀Startup Advice / October 29, 2010

There’s that on-going debate: is an entrepreneur born or made.  I have always believed an entrepreneur is made.  What I’m going to outline here is that an entrepreneur is made through practice.  A while back, I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book looks at things that contribute to success that society has overlooked.  One of the things is this concept of 10,000 hours of practice.

The Case Studies

Malcolm takes a look at a lot of case studies in his books.  It was those case studies that really made me think.  He mentions the following.  The first has to do with musicians.  The second has to do with The Beatles.  And the third has to do with Bill Gates.

First, the musicians.  Two groups of people were studied from top musical academies.  In one group are the ones that were born with music talent.  In the other, the ones that were not.  These people of course did not know they were in a case study that would span almost a decade.  The test was to see if the ones born with talent would be doing great things while the ones that were not doing mediocre things.  The result?  The talented group did not beat out the un-talented group by any stretch.  Some did better.  Some did worst.  The commonality between the ones that did very well?  Practice.  Eight hours a day, every day for years.  They found that practice is not something that people did to keep their skill at something.  Practice is the thing that makes people good.  Estimated number of hours?  10,000.

Second, The Beatles.  Before they were a big hit, they had played for a long, long time.  The story about them is that when they were in Hamburg, they played 8 hours a day for 7 days a week.  Instead of just playing their best hits for a hour or two, they had to find new ways of playing.  That amount of playing time gave the band confidence.  It also just made them better musicians.  By the time they had their first success in 1964, they played live 1200 times.  To put that in perspective, most bands don’t play that much in their entire lifetimes.

Finally, Bill Gates.  He had a lot of practice programming.  He started when he was in 8th grade when most colleges did not have access to computers.  The numbers on how much he spent programming were calculated because gaining access to a computer lab was billed back in the day.  At one point had ran up 1,575 hours of computer time in a 7-month period.  And that estimates out to about 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.  By the time he dropped out of Harvard, he had been programming for seven consecutive years.  He was way over the 10,000 hours mark!

The Theory

With the examples above, success meant being exceptionally good at a skill, to the point where they had mastery over it.  Entrepreneurship is nothing but a skill as well.  It’s made up of many skills such as organization, management, setting vision, presenting, public speaking, etc.  But just like being good at playing an instrument, or writing lines of code, practicing entrepreneurship makes someone good at it.  And the 10,000 hours?  It roughly estimates out to 10 years.  So the way I think of it is that someone will be exceptionally good at being an entrepreneur in 10 years from the time they started practicing.  But you don’t need to be the next Bill Gates to make a living as an entrepreneur.  So instead of 10,000 hours, you might need only 5,000 or less.

What To Do With This Knowledge

I know some will view the 10,000 hours as an obstacle.  But at least we know it can be achieved unlike how some think that entrepreneurs get lucky, almost like winning a lottery.  The numbers in winning a lottery are a lot worst than 10,000.

What does this mean for us?  The point I want to make is that entrepreneurship is learned.  Even though someone may have talent in certain areas such as charisma, or presentation, it’s the number of hours of practice that they devote to it that makes that person good at it.  So practice whatever makes you an entrepreneur daily, 8 hours a day if you can.  Hit that magic number.  Don’t think.  Just go do something that is entrepreneurial and hit the ground running.  But to know that a successful entrepreneur can be made in 10,000 hours is really encouraging.

Jack Liu believes that successful and ethical entrepreneurs make the world a better place.  To make that a reality, he built where he empowers teen entrepreneurs from around the world to be next generation’s business leaders.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.