Recently my wife turned me on to an author: Malcolm Gladwell. All his books are fascinating, but I think “Outliers” is his best work, at least as far as offering up a new and original philosophy. He presents three main ideas:
- No one is so innately talented that they excel beyond everyone else just because of their God-given talent
- Mastery of anything requires 10,000 hours of work, which, on average, takes about ten years time.
- If you look at any remarkably successful person, they were given a unique opportunity which allowed them to accrue these 10,000 hours faster than their competition.
His musical example of this is The Beatles. He points out that they were given a unique opportunity in which they were able to play long stints (five to eight weeks) at a German strip club, where they often played for as long as eight hours at a time. Sure they were talented and unique, but this opportunity to play for so many hours together is what fused them into the force that they became, and to master their art at such a young age.
Another interesting fact: the average time that a successful band has been together is seven years before they finally “make it”.
The point is this: the more time you put into your playing, the faster you’ll get good. This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think that this is less important than: who your teacher is, what kind of gear you use, etc. If you want to get good at the guitar, you will need to practice. The more you practice, the faster you will get good. There is no way around this.
Gladwell’s point is this: the people that knock out these hours fastest enjoy the most success, and that it takes some luck to be given the opportunity to have the time to spend so much time on becoming excellent. (Most of us are busy mowing the lawn… )
I’m not sure I’m doing this subject justice, but I have a student who appreciated the 10,000 hour rule. He just started going to college, with the goal of getting a degree in music. When I told him about the rule he upped his practice to six hours a day, which means that in about four years (I’ll give him credit for practice time already accrued) he’ll be kicking some real guitar butt!
I’m sure I’ve put in my 10,000 hours, but which is more exciting: a 40-year-old guitar ace or a 17-year-old? As always, the answer is the same: get to work!