Malcolm Gladwell is the author of the best-seller, Outliers: The Story of Success. The book attempts to identify both internal and external factors that appear consistently in the lives of successful people. Rather than simply attributing personal success to ambition and hard work, Gladwell identifies other diverse variables, including the month of one’s birth, the era in which you were born, the occupational background of your parents and grandparents, and how many hours a year people work in a given culture.
In examining all these items, Gladwell concludes that success is as much about what is around people as what is within them (in the way of natural gifts and abilities). It’s not to say that these external factors deny the value of ambition and hard work. In fact, one of the most significant factors mentioned in Gladwell’s book is what scientists call the “10,000-hour rule.”
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The 10,000 Hour Rule, Explained
In an interview that appeared in the March 15, 2009 issue of Bottom Line Personal, Gladwell explains the 10,000-hour Rule:
“When we look at any kind of cognitively complex field — for example, playing chess, writing fiction or being a neurosurgeon — we find that you are unlikely to master it unless you have practiced for 10,000 hours. That’s 20 hours a week for 10 years. The brain takes that long to assimilate all it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”
At first glance, this simply reinforces the old adage that “practice makes perfect.” However, Gladwell takes it a step further: Even people with great natural abilities cannot sidestep, shorten or go easy on the 10,000 hour requirement. The repetitions are absolutely necessary to fully realize one’s talent.
The Caveat to the 10,000 Hour Rule
However, to truly achieve the results of a well-trained professional, we must look beyond simply fulfilling a requisite number of hours. Gladwell justifies his 10,000-hour rule based on the work of researcher Anders Ericsson, yet Ericsson himself labels Gladwell’s rule as a “provocative generalization” that misinterprets his findings.
Ericsson’s point is that more is necessary to reach mastery-level status than mechanical repetition. To truly become an expert in any cognitively complex task, you must incorporate focused, deliberate practice with a desire to improve your craft.
There are tasks you may have already completed for 10,000 hours in your life—such as answering emails—yet that alone doesn’t make you an email-answering expert.
If, however, you analyzed your approach to answering emails, sought out guidance from other email efficiency experts, and consciously worked to find the best approach for managing high-volume digital inboxes, then and only then would you be working towards mastery status.
The 10,000 Hour Rule in Finance
The assembly and management of a profitable personal finance strategy arguably falls under the definition of a “cognitively complex task”. There are a lot of pieces, some of which may be rather complex in design, and the complexity increases when you attempt to integrate these items to create a functioning whole.
Even if this task isn’t as demanding as neurosurgery or as thrilling as performing a concerto before a large audience, managing your personal finances is something that requires considerable effort, focus, and attention.
So, it stands to reason that in order to optimize your financial potential, “mastery” of your financial programs would require something similar to 10,000 hours of practice, along with a devotion to analyzing and improving your approach to personal finances.
Careful evaluation, then, further reveals the value of financial advising:
- Is it realistic to expect you’ll devote 20 hours a week to becoming the master of your financial universe?
- Is it realistic to devote even five hours a week to the task?
- Do you have an intrinsic desire to evaluate your performance and work toward continual improvement?
- Or is it more efficient to find someone else who has already accomplished these steps?
Whether the 10,000-hour rule applies to your work or the efforts of those who help you, experience and ability are an unbeatable combination.
If you aren’t going to put 10,000 hours into your financial programs, why not make sure you work with someone who has? An experienced and professional financial advisor can help you reach your personal finance dreams without devoting countless hours to gain the experience required to master your financial strategies on your own.
If we can be of service to you, and pass on our knowledge and experience, please contact us or email us at email@example.com. We are happy to answer any questions you may have, or jump on a no-obligation call with you.