The first time listening to this talk by Malcolm Gladwell at the 2008 AIGA Business Design Conference was eye opening. The first few minutes of the video pulled me in as Josh Liberson steps onto the stage, introduces himself, and then proceeds to tell us of how Malcolm knows nothing of design. Malcolm then comes to the stage and starts speaking about Fleetwood Mac–I’d never heard of the band at this point–and I began to wonder where he was going with the topic.
It’s not until the second and third time listening in that you’ll really start to process what Malcolm is saying and how to apply it. So lets back up and look at his points main points:
Dedicate at least 10,000 hours to whatever it is you’re trying to master.
Only 10,000 hours? Well, yes. If you look at the time it takes to master something, it takes about 10,000 hours–that’s roughly four hours a day for ten years. It’s not to say that creativity and mastership of a profession can’t be had overnight or in a shorter period of time, but it just doesn’t happen for most people unless they’re solving a problem that can be summed up that simply.
Malcolm then goes on to say that the choice of profession is not trivial–I agree. The example that Malcolm uses is that if you decide to be a teacher, being a great teacher is not something that simply happens. It is something that comes out of an investment of your time (10,000 hours) and the things you’re a part of. You can’t just walk in and become a teacher and be great at it. It simply doesn’t work like that. The same goes for being a designer, photographer, or a profession in any other field. It takes time to learn and and develop each of the creative tasks and then solve them.
Additionally, someone could invest a large amount of time to a profession and still be terrible. You have to take into account the quality of the time and the underlying intent for spending that time.