In his book, Outliers, famous 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. Some agree with Gladwell's theory and some who have gone to great lengths to disprove it, but assuming that Gladwell is correct, 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 do 10,000 hours of dedication look like? It depends.
It can span the length of an entire career. For example, in adolescence, if you start early in youth, 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.
Let's break it down to something manageable. If you're someone who is just starting in 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.
Mentoring offers a way to accelerate learning and gaining the 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.
Furthermore, you can ask them questions and offer scenarios, acquiring information that would be impossible to obtain from a book. Regardless of how many hours you decide to devote to being a master in your chosen field, the quality of your time is far more critical than the amount.
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 career directly to you. Then, you'll surpass the limits of theory and take your career progression into 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 where true equality is achieved, and hard work is rewarded, but it's only possible with your participation.