Yes, but an outlier in what?

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I’m currently reading Outliers:  The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  I picked up a copy yesterday afternoon, and have already finished four chapters.  In brief, Gladwell’s book is looking at the factors that make people successful.  Some of those factors are a bit unusual, such as the high percentage of pro hockey players born in January, February and March.  Other factors I had heard of, such as the 10,000 Hour Rule.

When looking at people who achieve conspicuous success in their professions, their mastery of key skills seems to require 10,000 hours of practice.  To put this in perspective, you couldn’t do this in one year even if you were able to stay up around the clock; there are only (7 x 24 x 52) = 8,736 hours in a year (except for leap years, which have 8,760 hours).

If you were to put in six hours of skill development five days a week, and get two weeks’ vacation, that’s 1,500 hours per year and it would take nearly seven years to attain expert level.  That’s what happened to me — I’ve been at my current job since the fall of 2009 and have eight and a half years of concentrated experience that has made me the office expert in typing highly specialized reports.  Over a lifetime my hours of general typing — both in the office plus writing at home, for fun — are even higher.  I would guess that it’s upwards of 30,000 hours, as I’ve been typing since grade 8 and have been in the workforce for 40 years so far.

Then there are the hours spent doing other things, like practising musical instruments.  I wish I could say I had 10,000 clarinet hours; alas, it’s a lot less than that, and I’ve been at it for nearly 14 years so far.

And then there are the hours I’ve done… well, nothing in particular.  Surf the Internet.  Play video games.  Go to the mall, just to get out of the house and watch people go by.

What I’m getting at is this:  We all get the same 24-hour days, and over our lifetimes the average person will accumulate 10,000+ hours in something.  What’s your something?  What has become your expertise, and is it something you want to be an expert in?

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