10,000 Hour Rule and the Best Haircut

Jennifer Prosek  Follow

The Outliers by Malcolm GladwellI’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell, especially his recent book The Outliers.  In The Outliers he discusses why so many of our most successful people or entities—from the Beatles to Bill Gates—became so successful.  One of the reasons for their success, he claims, is something he calls the 10,000 hour rule.  The rule is pretty simple and boils down to this: you can't really master something unless you’ve done it for 10,000 hours.  And, folks like Gates, who just happened to be one of the few kids in his generation to have access to working on main frame computing at a young age, hit his 10,000 hour rule before any of his contemporaries.  It can be argued in my case, because I began running a business so young (I became a partner at 25 years old), that I hit my 10,000 hour rule as a PR owner early on too (not to compare myself to Gates' success in any way!).

I was reminded of the 10,000 hour rule this weekend when I finally got my haircut.  While chatting up the stylist, he mentioned how hard he’s been working to make ends meet. Then he told me he does a whopping 70 haircuts a week.  He also just turned 40.  Do the math folks.  This is only significant if you consider that I happen to live in SOHO, New York—the epicenter of great salons—however, I choose to get my hair cut in Westport, CT.  Why?  Because this particular stylist is the best I’ve ever met, bar none.  And he’s fast.  He can get an A+ job done in a matter of 30 minutes; something incredibly important to me.  And with a frequency as high as 70 haircuts a week, this guy hit his 10,000 hour rule early—probably years and years ago.

So what's the take away here?  Mine is, if you want to be good at anything, it takes relentless practice and experience developed over time.  I believe that smart young people can do ANYTHING, but I also believe in hard work and repetition.  Too many people give up easily when they haven’t perfected something right away.  We live in an “instant satisfaction” society where things are expected to happen in a flash.  Too often, I witness frustration from my colleagues when they can't master something difficult right away or they don’t get a promotion with the speed at which they had hoped.  It's important to remember that anything worth mastering takes time, practice and focus and that those who achieve have that in their DNA.

Success isn’t just accidental. CJP

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