Saturday, November 29, 2008

10,000 Hours

I recently reviewed Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers for City Journal. You can read the review here. There are some good things and bad things about the book, but one of the most interesting assertions is the idea that achieving expertise in anything requires about 10,000 hours of practice. The Beatles were forged in the crucible of a Hamburg gig that had them playing 8 hours a night day after day. Bill Gates got access to one of the first time-sharing computers in 1968, and so spent his teen years programming. He'd probably put in 10,000 hours by the time he started Microsoft in 1975. Top violinists likewise put in that many hours of solo practice trying to get better.

What does this have to do with Core Competency Moms? Broadly, being a Core Competency Mom is about focusing on what you do best: nurturing your kids and your paid work. But to really have a "black belt" in the concept, you need to follow through on the full definition. Core Competencies are things you do so well that other people cannot readily imitate them. This may be easy to do with your kids (no one else can be the mom you can to them) but few of us ever achieve this level of competence at our work. Do we ever deliberately practice any aspect of our jobs for 10,000 hours with the goal of getting better?

Maybe if your work is in the creative sphere you do (I have probably spent 10,000 hours writing and trying to get better at my writing). But what if your work is, say, managing an HR team? Do you regularly spend even a handful of hours trying to get better at it, let alone 10,000? It's a sobering thought. On the other hand, it's an inspirational thought, too. If you spend 10,000 hours trying to get better at something, you will definitely be better at it by the end. Will it be your core competency? Maybe not yet, but you'll be a lot closer than you were.

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