10 Years / 10,000 Hours
In the early 2000s, I was a business traveler, teaching Pro/ENGINEER for PTC. I moved into an apartment with my best friend in Hollywood. I ended up becoming acquainted with Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the screenwriters of Aladdin, Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. They are both incredibly talented and brilliant, to say the least.
At the beginning of their writing partnership, Terry shared an insight with Ted: if you spend ten years doing something, you will become an expert at that thing. You might not be good at that thing, but you will be an expert at it. For example, someone who spends ten years managing a supermarket would know pretty much everything there is to know about running a supermarket. That was the long-haul / marathon approach they took towards their commitment to mastering the craft of screenwriting.
A few years later (2008) Malcolm Gladwell released his book “Outliers,” in which he wrote that “achievement is talent plus preparation.” Perhaps the most famous takeaway from that book is that it takes approximately / on average 10,000 hours of guided practice to achieve mastery in a field.
There are 2,000 work hours in a year. If you subtract the hours that don’t pertain directly to applying the skills in your field - PTO, meetings, training, administrative functions - you probably spend 1,000 hours per year in guided practice. In other words, if you spend 10 years working in a particular role, you have probably become an expert at that role.
If you’re an engineer, have you spent ten years on detail design, structural analysis, manufacturing, test, or some other area? You may have unrecognized mastery of that field. If you're in some other field, have you spent ten years practicing a craft or skill?
So what are you going to do with that mastery? Stay tuned for some suggestions.