10,000-Hours to Entrepreneurial Greatness

In his delightful book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states that for someone to be “great” at something, he should have spent at least 10,000 hours honing and perfecting this skill.

The famous 10,000-Hour Rule

He cites The Beatles and Bill Gates as examples.

The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. They used all that time to hone and perfect their music. According to Beatles biographer Philip Norman, by the time they got back to England from Germany, “they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.”

Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.

In Outliers, Gladwell interviews Gates, who says that unique access to a computer at a time when they were not commonplace helped him succeed. Without that access, Gladwell states that Gates would still be “a highly intelligent, driven, charming person and a successful professional,” but that he might not be worth US$50 billion.

Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years. He also notes that he himself took exactly 10 years to meet the 10,000-Hour Rule, during his brief tenure at The American Spectator and his more recent job at Washington Post.

Now, let’s apply this to entrepreneurship.

Think about the great entrepreneurs you know. What do people like Henry Sy and John Gokongwei have in common? They began honing their entrepreneurial skills very early on – as teenagers! Imagine the skills they built early on – negotiating, sales, financial savvy, handling pressure (they didn’t eat if they didn’t earn) – all essential entrepreneurial skills. They got to 10,000 real early, cumulatively applying what they learned onto their new ventures.

Steve Jobs started as a teenager. Richard Branson started his first business, a magazine called Student, when he was 16. Investor extraordinaire Warren Buffet did odd jobs and “buy and sell” as a child. Buffet bought his first shares at the age of 11.  Jollibee’s Tony Tan Caktiong spent his teenage years helping with the family’s restaurant business in Davao he built the ice cream parlors that would later morph into Jollibee.

I could go on and on.

Gladwell makes a lot of sense. The more experience you gain as an entrepreneur, the better at it you become. I remember telling people that if there was one thing I regretted in my entrepreneurial career – it was that I could’ve started sooner. (I started at 30) I would’ve made my mistakes earlier. I would’ve applied my learnings faster.

I would be a much better entrepreneur now had I started earlier – I have absolutely no doubt about that.

Time on the job is essential. Sorry, but whatever time you spend in corporate does NOT apply.

Want to be a great entrepreneur one day?

How many hours you got? 

Related Juan Great Leap posts:

A)Getting employed- by a startup – CAN count in your 10,000 hour quest. Read more at Learn how to build a startup by joining one

B) 6 Tips for Developing a Startup Without Quitting Your Day Job – You can start your 10,000 without letting go of your security blanket first.

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