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Short-cut to Mastery: Circumventing 10,000 Hours


In his book, Outliers, popular journalist and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the theory of “10,000 hours.” The theory holds that it takes a person ten thousand hours of targeted practice in a field to achieve mastery. There are some who agree with Gladwell’s theory and some who have gone to great lengths to disprove it, but assuming that Gladwell is right, that it does take a great deal of time and study to master a field, how does one go about gathering the knowledge they need to become a master?

To begin with, what does 10,000 hours of dedication really look like? It depends. It can span the length of an entire career. If you start early, in adolescence, say, you have a better chance of achieving mastery by your twenties. But most people are already in their twenties when they decide to master something, and some (those career-changers, for example) are even older.

So let’s break it down to something manageable. If you’re someone who is just starting out in his/her career, or perhaps you’ve worked for a time and now you want to master a new field, chances are you’re spending the bulk of your day working for an income. You probably have other responsibilities and interests too, like grocery shopping, cleaning your house or apartment, and socializing from time to time.

Realistically you probably only have about five hours available to study each day. If you calculate that number in terms of days, that’s 2,000 days of study, or just under 5 & 1/2 years. You’ll probably take a day off here and there, or study less than five hours some days. It’s also possible that your day job could be considered study in your chosen field, so maybe you count some of those hours towards the 10,000. Either way, you’re looking at a great deal of time before you can consider yourself a master in your field.

Given all this, wouldn’t it be nice if you could hit the fast-forward button? What if you could gain some of that knowledge and wisdom from someone who’s been there before you? You’d effectively save yourself the time and effort it would take to research or learn important lessons all on your own.

This is exactly what mentoring offers: a way to accelerate the learning of knowledge and the gaining of wisdom required to become a master in your career. In a way, your mentor has already done the bulk of the work for you. They’ve spent innumerable hours building a career and learning the dos and don’ts of success. Their wisdom is first-hand, not gleaned from a book, and their experience is real and tangible. What’s more, you can ask them questions and present scenarios, thereby gaining knowledge that would otherwise be difficult to get from a book.

No matter how many hours you decide to spend becoming a master in your chosen career, it’s the quality of time that matters far more than the quantity. There's no arguing that practice plays a huge role in success, so you should study the ins and outs of your field and read up on best practices and case studies. But consider bolstering your studies by enlisting the aid and guidance of a mentor, a trusted professional who can transfer the hours they’ve invested in their own career directly to you. You’ll surpass the limits of theory and take your career progression in your own hands. 

If this post resonated with you, check with your organization to see whether you are part of the MentorCloud network. If not, sign up for a demo here! Our vision is to create a mentoring planet in which true equality is achieved and hard work is rewarded, but it's only possible with your participation.