Develop Your Field With Your 10,000 Hour Head Start

We each have a field. We have a place that we are currently planted. We can develop the field around us and reap the benefits that come with long-term cultivation.

Malcolm Gladwell made a powerful observation about this in his groundbreaking book, Outliers. In his research, he discovered that people who do extraordinary things have invested over 10,000 hours in their specialty. Whether a hockey player or violinist, those people who stand way above the rest at their craft have spent considerable time practicing, learning and rehearsing to prepare themselves for greatness.

We often think of child prodigies as people who are so gifted that they just naturally make it big. In Malcolm’s research, he unpacks a different fact pattern. To be sure, people who excel far above the rest are using their natural talents. But they are also building off of a foundation of hours and hours of practice. As it turns out, these people have spent at least 10,000 hours working on their specialty before they have their breakout moment. And then they practice even more to stay on top.

10,000 hours may sound like a lot of time, and it is. But you probably have already spent 10,000 hours developing yourself. The average work year is 2,000 hours. If you have been in your career for five years, you have 10,000 hours developing your talent. Your field is already seeded with a great amount of potential fruit.

People often look to other fields in what we commonly refer to as "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" phenomenon. If you are looking at someone else's success and want to copy it, you will need to spend 10,000 hours doing what they do before you can catch up to them. If, however, you look at your current environment and realize that you are in a fantastic opportunity, one in which you already have the advantage of invested hours, then you can get started on making yours the greenest field on the block.

Sales executives can use this framework of thinking to map out a plan to develop every prospect in their "patch" and turn every one of them into a customer over a period of time. Software engineers can use this knowledge to develop their specific technical knowledge and skill to transform their product into the leading product in their "field." Customer service specialists can set a plan for their team to seed, water and maintain the happiest customers on the planet.

You are the one that has the advantage. It takes time to develop that advantage into a lush, green field. See yourself in that green field and build a plan to make it fantastic. When you do, you will be the one that everyone will come to in order to learn how you had such tremendous success.