You may have heard of the 10 000-hour rule propagated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book entitled Outliers. Today, we want to dwell on this rule. Let us understand what this rule says and what that means to all of us that want to make an impact on earth. This is a rule about the amount of time required for anybody to master anything that they choose to master.
In the early 1990s, some psychologists in Berlin, Germany, conducted research on the skills development of children. They focused the research on a group of violin students. Their research discovered a few things. Most of the students who became top experts in playing violin had started learning violin around the age of five years. These students were exposed to violin at a tender age and they kept learning and never gave up until they became masters of violin.
They also discovered that by the age of eight years, some of the children were already out-smarting the others. A closer look at the students revealed that those who were stars had been pumping in more practice hours than those that were not so good with the violin. By the age of 20 years, the differences were even clearer now. The students who had put in more than 10 000 hours had become true experts of the violin. Those that put in less than 4 000 hours were far less capable.
A similar story is told of how Bill Gates and Paul Allen started what is now the big company Microsoft, in 1975. Little does the world know the full story behind Microsoft. At that time, computers were very expensive to buy. Bill and Paul had privileged access to computers, especially in college where they got addicted to programming. In fact, Bill’s parents were living near Washington University. Bill would desert his bed to spend dozens of hours in the computer lab at the nearby University. He probably did a few cycles of 10 000 hours! No wonder the breakthrough of Microsoft!
Let us come back home. We all know how Chisomo Lumeta, the young tennis star, rose in tennis in Zomba before he was given scholarships as a reward for his tennis expertise, to study in South Africa and Morocco before he was even a teenager. His father had received a gift of a racquet from an Englishman who was returning to the UK, for having been a good caddie. His son took the racquet and started practising tennis frequently and over long periods to a level where he would walk with his racquet everywhere he went. Each time he was free, he would practise tennis. This way, Lumeta quickly clocked his 10 000 hours of practising tennis, making him an expert at the game while still young and in the process earning him funding to do school and learn advanced tennis abroad.
What Lumeta did by getting so glued to tennis that he would carry his racquet around is what the Berlin psychologists also observed—that at some stage, those who pump in a lot of hours into practising something that they really like, they get so addicted to the practice that they can even forgo many other things for the sake of the practice. In fact, in the case of Lumeta, stories are told of how he would sometimes skip meals because he was on the tennis court. Similar stories feature in the backgrounds of Venus Williams, Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Didier Drogba, Peter Mponda, the late Du Chisiza, Manganya, writer Stanley Onjezani Kenani, Paul and Lucius Banda, and many more.
If you want to become a real expert, pump in 10 000 hours into something that you like. You do not need to be naturally good at it. In fact, the Berlin research proved that you don’t need to have any natural gift in the thing you want to become an expert at. Just start early and pump in more than 10 000 hours and you will be the best. Good luck as you decide to pump in the 10 000 hours into something worthwhile and spread the word. All the best! n