I just finished reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and the book really does put a lot of ideas about life and success in perspective. The first thing you begin to understand is that opportunity and luck have a lot to do with how successful you can become. People like Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) were born at the perfect time (1950s’) when computers were in their early stages (late 60’s) and they put forth the hard work to become amazing successes. If Gates were born 10 years earlier, even with hard work, wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be the Bill Gates of today.
The idea of how hard you work is also unbelievably important. I’m not sure people realize how integral it is that you practice something to get better. There might be some “natural” athletes but for the rest of us, we get better through practice. I take my own life and use basketball as the perfect example. When I was younger I may have been a tad more coordinated or a little faster than other kids but the reason I was one of the better players was because I went to summer camps, I went to winter camps, and I played in my driveway all the time. As I got older I just stopped playing and it was clear this was the case as I tried to play in my twenties. I didn’t have a feel for the basket, my shot left me, and my confidence was stirred. I could still be a good player but I don’t practice to become good and now I just fall into the masses. It’s not that I’m bad, I just don’t practice.
Another thing to note is how your upbringing is a HUGE determination of how much opportunity you have. If you come from a poor home and your parents don’t have extra money, you aren’t going to be able to attend summer and winter basketball camps. You won’t get coaches watching you and molding you into a better player. If you aren’t good at something most people just assume you weren’t born to be good at whatever is in question. Not true. Most likely you just don’t have any experience or practice. People aren’t good at things because they may lack practice and opportunity.
10,000 hours is the amount of time it takes to be an expert at something. If you haven’t put in this amount of time at something you consider yourself to be good at, you aren’t going to be that good. I don’t wonder why I’m not good at tennis. I know why I’m not good at tennis, I don’t practice. I’ve never practiced. I’ve probably logged 100 lifetime hours on a tennis court. It doesn’t surprise me when I’m not good at it. I believe this is a realization that some people just don’t see. In their own minds they are good at everything and then wonder what happened when they lose. You get good at anything by doing it and practicing it. Spending time doing a particular task is how you achieve success. Now think about what you are good at and understand how much time you’ve put into being good at it. Most likely this idea or activity is what you are passionate about. Now find some way to spend your life living off of that idea. Life will become easy and fun if you can figure out how to live your life doing something you like and are good at.