Day 129: Friday, September 9 - I promise I haven't been a slacker!

Just because I haven't posted this week doesn't mean I haven't been working, plying my craft, trying to accomplish those 10,000 hours that are called for in the "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.

I was going to post the paintings I've been working on but then got all involved in the 10,000 hour I'm going to post a long discussion/quote from the book because the idea is so truthful and it was interesting to me how various professors and professionals have set about proving the old adage that "practice makes perfect".

outliers, 10000 hours, Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell is the author of "The Tipping Point", "Blink", and "Outliers: The Story of Success".  “Outliers” are the high achievers, the best, the brightest, and the most successful people.  Gladwell has some interesting theories on what it takes to become an outlier.

In “Outliers” Gladwell explains that in the early 1990’s psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues conducted an experiment at Berlin’s “Academy of Music”.  Basically, the school’s violinists were divided into three groups: the stars, the “good” performers, and those who were unlikely to ever play professionally and would probably become music teachers. They were all asked the same question: “Over the course of the years, ever since you picked up a violin, how many hours have you practiced?
All of the violinists had started playing at around age five, and they all played about two or three hours a week during the first few years. However, around the age of eight, an important difference began to emerge in the amount of hours they each practiced. By age 20, the stars in the group had all totaled 10,000 hours of practice over the course of their lives; the “good” students had totaled 8,000 hours; and the future music teachers just over 4,000 hours.
What the research suggested was that once you have enough talent to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. In addition, other studies have also shown that excellence at a complex task requires a minimum level of practice, and experts have settled on 10,000 hours as the magic number for true expertise. This is true even of people we think of as prodigies, such as Mozart.
Gladwell quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin as follows:
“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is certainly brilliant, Malcolm adds in “Outliers”, but most people don’t know that he spent most of his early years in his school’s computer lab. He had extensive access to a state-of-the-art computer lab, the likes of which very few in his generation would know until years later. By the time he dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year to try his hand at his own software company, Gates had already been programming nonstop for seven consecutive years. He was way past 10,000 hours.

The Beatles

The Beatles, Gladwell continues, were invited to play in Hamburg, Germany in 1960 when they were still a struggling band. What was unusual about Hamburg is that they had to play all night, eight hours straight, seven days a week, for weeks on end. John Lennon, in an interview after the Beatles disbanded, talking about the band’s performances at Hamburg, said: “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long. . . In Liverpool, we’d only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. In Hamburg we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing.”

Just Do It: Quantity Leads to Quality

“A ceramics professor comes in on the first day of class and divides the students into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece.
At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot.”
The quote demonstrates that by producing as much as you can, the quality of what you produce increases.  With each pot created the students in the “quantity” group learned something new and perfected their skill.  In addition, their creativity was not restrained by the thought of creating “the one perfect pot”.  By being told that they were going to be graded on quantity they had more leeway to experiment and try new things.  .

To Have a Great Idea, Have Lots of Them

Bloggers have written about Thomas Edison’s idea quota: basically, he had a set number of ideas he had to come up with each week. Even though lots of the ideas he came up with were pretty lousy, he also came up with a lot of very successful ideas.

“Idea a Day” is a website founded in London in August 2000 by music executive David Owen and others, in which one idea is published a day. As well as perusing the ideas, you are encouraged to submit your own and share them. If you subscribe to their feed you’ll have one idea delivered to you every day. You can then use that idea as a jumping-off point for your own daily idea. Here are two interesting from the “Idea a Day” site:
“Add a tax to all unhealthy foods so that they cost more than healthy alternatives. A healthy diet would be relatively cheaper than an unhealthy diet. Then use the tax revenues to pay for more and better health education and sporting facilities.” – Day 3013 by Bounce
“Create a carbon offset tax. People would be taxed a certain percentage a month based on their carbon footprint. By doing things to lower their carbon footprint, the percentage would be lowered. For example driving a car that gets more than a 30 mpg, buying locally grown organic produce, or not spraying the lawn would cut back the tax. The revenue raised could in turn be used to develop green technologies, plant trees and protect rain forests.” – Day 2092 by Max

In conclusion, the more you practice your craft–whatever it may be–, the more you create, and the more ideas you come up with, the more likely you are to be successful. As we’ve been told over and over again, it’s a numbers game.

This information came from the following people to give credit where credit is due: Marelisa Fabrega, Bill Buxton and Mike Arauz

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