“It takes 20 years to make an overnight success” – Eddie Cantor
How To Be An Overnight Success
We all dream of being an overnight success right? Of the easy money, the quick rise to fame. We want the awards, we want the recognition, we want to be love and adored. But you know what we don’t want? We don’t want to put in the work. And that’s our problem.
We all dream of the glory, but none of us dream of the work, the long road and long hours in front of us. Why would we? We want results now!
Here’s the good and the bad news. The good news is that if it was easy to be an overnight success, then everyone would be one. The fact that it’s hard means there isn’t really much competition at the top. The bad news is you better start putting in the work.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, presented the concept of 10,000 hours. He gave the example of The Beatles, who, in 1964 toured America and took the world by storm. Overnight they had gone from being completely unknown and unheard of, to suddenly the biggest thing in the world.
Was it magic? Were they geniuses? Were they literal rock gods that been divinely presented from the lord above? No. And while it probably wouldn’t be fair to say they were just “regular, average lads”, They also didn’t just wake up one morning, being endowed with rock god prowess. No, they had to work for it.
Before anyone had ever heard of The Beatles, before anyone recognized the faces of Paul, John, George and Ringo, they cut their teeth in sleazy Hamburg strip clubs. They were the house band, and would play 8 hours per night, 7 days a week.
Wait what? Yeah exactly. Suddenly that pristine image of 4 little scoundrels, gets washed away in an image of sweaty sex and hard work. But I say this with zero condesnention towards The Beatles, in fact if anything, it only gives me more respect for them.
But more importantly than that, it fills me with hope. It fills me with the hope and excitement that anyone can make it to the top. Anyone who’s willing to do the things others refuse to (how many people would happily spend years working in a stip club?), and anyone who’s willing to put in the time, the blood, sweat, and tears can make it to the top.
Become become obsessed with talent and with ‘gift’, and assume that because they don’t ‘have it’, that they’re doomed to a life of mediocrity. I call bulls*it. I say if you put in the time and you put in the work, you too can make it to the top, regardless of where you are today.
What Does 10,000 Hours Really Look Like?
So this is a fun one. I’ve learned that 10,000 words is about 24 pages of 12-point, single-line spaced font (ask me how I know). But what does 10,000 hours really look like? It’s all well and good to get excited by the idea of 10,000 hours, but when the rubber hits the road, what does that really mean?
With 24 hours in a day, if you worked non-stop it would take 1.2 years to hit 10,000 hours. Not bad right? But I guess maybe you want to eat and sleep sometimes right?
So I broke this up in two ways: Full-Time and Part-Time Work
For Full-Time work, let’s say you’re a real go-getter and you put in 12 hours a day, 6 days a week – that’s 72 hours a week (not bad considering the average work week is 37.5 hours) – in a month that 288 hours, and a year its 3,456 hours (getting close).
So at Full-Time work, you’re looking at 3 years to hit your 10,000 hours.
What about for Part-Time work? I appreciate that everyone has different lives and schedules, some people have full time jobs (or part time), people have family, people have friends, people have responsibilities – so what does it take if you’re working part time? Let’s redo the calculation.
Now let’s say you’re working 5 hour days, 4 days a week. That’s 20 hours per week (about half the standard work week). Each month thats 80 hours, and each year that’s 960 hours. At this rate its going to take you 11 years to hit that goal. So, more or less a decade.
Obviously my reocommendaiton would be to drop whatever other responsibilities you can so you can dive in 100% and commit to your calling. 3 years is surprisingly achievable. I’m only 32 years old, but even to me it is surprising how not long ago 3 years feels. When I think of things I did when I was 29, or even 27, there is a part of me that is in complete shock that it has already been 3 years since those days happen. And I imagine (or rather I scowl to myself), what I could have achieved over those last 3 years, if I’d actually put in the dedicated effort? If I’d actually stopped doing all the dumb, time wasting s*it that I did those years, and actually put my effort and my time into focused, concerted effort, what could I have achieved by now?
There is no point in dwelling on the past. The past is past, and I can’t change it. However, I can learn from it. If I’m angry that I feel I wasted the last 3 or 5 or 10 years, then now is the time to change that. Now is the time to say enough is enough, draw a line in the sand, and get my a** to work. Think about it – could you afford to let another 3 precious years slip through your fingers? Read your books, put in the work.
How long does it take to reach 10,000 hours?
How long it takes to reach 10,000 hours is entirely up to you. Like I said, if you decide not to sleep, you can get there in about a year (not recommended). I do however recommend you hit it hard, and you go full time at. True mastery of a skill requires extended periods of time without distraction, so you can focus on the task at hand.
With dedicated, full-time work, you can hit your 10,000 hours within 3-5 years. I get it, that sounds like a lot, but I ask you, what else are you going to do with that half-decade? Sit around playing video games? Get your a** to work.
How much is 10,000 hours in a year?
I hate to burst your bubble, but 10,000 hours ain’t happening in a year. You can try your hardest (and I encourage you), but it might be tough to hit. I do recommend taking a (slightly) more sane approach, and with full time effort of 60-80 hours per week, you’ll be hitting it in 3-5 years.
How can I get 10,000 hours?
The short answer? One foot in front of the other. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but there is no shortcut for hard work. I know we’re all looking for a hack to make our lives easier – but this time there isn’t one. The good news, is that also means your competition better put in the hard work as well – or else they’re toast when you catch up.
The best I can recommend is to make sure you’re regularly dedicating time. If it’s part time, make sure you’re scheduling in 20 hours per week, which sounds like a lot, but if you get up a few days at 5am to cram in a few hours before work or school, and then schedule a few 8 hour days on the weekends, you’ll be rocking in no time.
If you have the luxury of working full time, then get your butt to work. Success in life is about sacrifce. We must sacrifice in the short term so we can enjoy the long term. This means sacrificing video games, sacrificing netflix, sacrificing excessive chill time with friends (unless those friends stimulate you professionally), and sacrifice excessive drinking and partying.
Now you can either call me the grumpy buzz-kill, or you can decide that you want to do something with your life, and see my grumpy message as a blessing. Sometimes we all need a little tough love.
Is 10,000 hours really the magic number of greatness?
Want my honest answer? I’ll tell you when I get there. I have accomplished a lot in my life – black belt in karate, professional engineering degree, travelled around the world – and the first two definitely took dedicated time and effort. Was it 10,000 hours? Hard to say, but probably close to it.
I’m not starting out at the beginning of a new journey in my life (developing this blog). I’m far from having put in my 10,000, but as of this word right now, I’m at 48,800 words written. Is that a lot? Maybe. But my plan is that by 5 years from now I’ll have well over 10 Million (call it a BHAG….big hairy audacious goal).
At that point I will have put in my 10,000 hours, and I can let you know at that point, whether 10,000 hours really is the magic number of greatness. Also, for anyone in my future who shows me this blog post, I’ll buy you a coffee. That’s some serious dedication on your part.
How many hours does it take to become a master?
This is an excellent question, the conventional wisdom states 10,000 hours. But is that truly enough? Mayb 10,000 hours is just the baseline to reach expert level, but maybe true mastery comes at 50’000. Afterall, I believe we can all agree that if you can accomplish 10’000 hours by working full time for just 3 years, you’re probably note a true master yet.
Long term mastery we’re talking more 20 to 30 years. That’s serious commitment. I can only dream that I’ll find a calling in life so compelling as to keep me captivated that long. Or maybe I’m thinking about it backwards, maybe it’s not my calling that needs to keep me captivated, but rather my hard work to stay captivated on my calling.
What is the equivalent of 10,000 hours?
The equivalent of 10,000 hours is, well, 10,000 hours. But without being facetious, the equivalent of 10,000 hours is 3 years of hard-core, full-time work. When you just dive in and you dedicate you f*cking life to it. There is no substitute for this level of dedication for those who plan to achieve greatness in their lives.
How many hours does it take to become proficient?
So then, how many hours does it take just to become proficient? Some would argue it takes the 10’000 hours, but perhaps we can get it done faster than that. The author Josh Kaufman argues that the first 20 hours are the most important for learning a new skill.
Josh Kaufman The First 20 Hours
For those who haven’t seen it yet, check out this TED Talk by Josh Kaufman. He breaks down the process of learning any new skill within 20 hours. Josh argues, that any skill can be learned in about 20 hours of concentrated focus, and that the first 20 hours really are the most important.
It’s in those first 20 hours where we have an ability to get attached to the process. If we’re learning a new language, or learning to cook, or learning the ukelele, those first 20 hours will reveal to us whether it really is something we want to do or not.
If you learn after 20 hours that you’re not actually really that interested in it, cool you just saved yourself from wasting 10,000 hours trying to get amazing at something you didn’t actually really like.
But on the other hand, 20 hours might just be enough time to get good at it, to show off a bit to your friends (or your instagram feed), and more importantly you just might fall in love with it yourself. And that is the whole point that Josh is arguing for here, that we need those first 20 hours to get decent enough, that we see enough progress, that we actually have the chance to fall in love with the practice.
Once we fall in love with the practice it is just a matter of putting in the time, the hours, the blood, sweat and tears, as we work our way to mastery.
Miles Beckler 90 Day Challenge
I need to give a massive shout out here to the Miles Beckler 90 Day Challenge – this guy is a real pro at launching new businesses from zero to hero. For those that don’t know, in the last 17 days I’ve written over 47,000 words, at about 2,700 words per day, and produced 10 blogs, and I owe Miles Beckler a big debt of gratitude for this accomplishment.
Miles lays out his 90 Challenge, which is 90 days of pure content creation. The formula Miles follows is 90 blogs of 1,500 words, over a 90 day period. The purpose is to generate MASSIVE amounts of content to signal to search engines “hey, look at me! I’m producing all this original content”. Once search engines pick up the scent that you’re reliably, and regularly, and consistently putting out new content, they’re going to (over time) start favouring you over others.
They’ll start ranking you higher, giving you more impressions, giving you more clicks and ranking you for more and more keywords.
For anyone who’s started a blog or a youtube channel before, you know just how frustrating it is when you produce all that content, and your results seem to go absolutely nowhere. The problem, is that you haven’t produced enough. You’re not even out of the gate yet. Most people put up one blog and think “okay! I did it!”. But now, you’re just getting started.
I love the framework that Miles lays out, because it is simple, and to the point: produce 90 pieces of content, 1,500 words long, for 90 days – that’s it. It’s straightforward, and measurable – you can quantify whether you did it or not – you can’t bulls*it the numbers.
Mad respect to you Miles Beckler, thank you for helping me get on my path. For anyone who isn’t familiar with him – check out his YouTube channel.
YouTube Videos For 10,000 Hours Motivation:
To wrap things up here, check out these vids from across the web – 10,000 hours is all over our pop-culture – it’s seeping in. (saved the best for last – Malcolm Gladwell breaks down the concepts of 10,000 hours – enjoy!)
Macklemore Ten Thousand Hours
10,000 Hours Motivational Vid: