Once upon a time, a turtle (Note: For the purpose of the story, I’m saying it’s a turtle. “Tortoising Yourself to Success” is a much more cumbersome title.) challenged a hare to a race. At the start of the race, the Hare put on a burst of speed. Confident that he’d win, he decided to take a nap. The turtle just kept walking and didn’t stop until he reached the finish line, until he reached success. And, as you know, the hare woke up and finished after the turtle did.
Have you ever seen someone else’s success and felt jealous? Or have you ever poured all of your energy into something without seeing results for a long time? There are good reasons for both of those situations. No one has ever said that the path to success is easy, but it is rewarding. Just as in Aesop’s tale, the ones who put on a burst of speed in the beginning only to take a break, come in last, while the turtles, those who just keep moving even when winning looks impossible, are the ones who reach the finish line first.
The 10,000 Hours Rule
Let me tell you another story.
In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists studied violin students. They found that by age twenty, the elite averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, about 3 hours per day for 10 years, and the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice, about 1 hour per day for 10 years.1
In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he has several other examples of where the 10,000 hours rule comes into play when someone is extremely exceptional at what they do. In essence, 10,000 hours of something is what it takes to reach mastery.
There are twin brothers at my church who are very good at singing and playing instruments. I’m not half as musically inclined. My singing needs work, and please don’t ask about my piano playing. I really, really want to have a better voice, but that requires more practice, something they obviously have.
Sometimes, it’s tempting to be jealous of those who are obviously more talented at something than we are. It seems unfair that they have so much talent in one area while we don’t. In the violin study, the psychologists noticed that talent didn’t factor into their final skills at all. It made a difference at first, but gradually disappeared as the students practiced. Those who played more were better. And generally, if someone is better at something than we are, it’s because they’ve paid to get there with time and energy.
That’s how many days you have to live. 21,500 if you’re in your mid-teens. My dad often says this. He’s not trying to depress me, but to remind me that my time is limited. I literally can’t afford to waste it.
God’s given each of us a certain amount of time to spend, and we can spend it however we want—whether we invest it or waste it. He leaves that decision to us. So, instead of being jealous, I’ve been getting up every morning to practice singing. We don’t have to envy anyone else because of our lack of “talent.” We have the option to do something, to become better.
Over Thanksgiving, I visited my cousins. One of them owned the video game HALO. I’d never played before. It’s a pretty fun game—like digital paintball. Unfortunately, I stink. Really, really badly. I believe my death-kill ratio was something along the lines of 17-3. I had to remind myself that the other players probably had hours upon hours of experience, while I had just started. Of course it was fair that I got creamed. But do I envy them? Maybe a little at first, but when I thought about all the time they’d wasted on that, not really.
Time is your most valuable resource. Treat it like that. Look at where you are today. Look at where you want to be 10 years from now. Do you want to be a master of Candy Crush? Of dance? Of watching TV? Of a sport? If you’re my age, looking that far into the future can be a little intimidating. If you want a bachelor’s degree, you’ll probably be done with college at that time. You could be living on your own, paying taxes. But looking ahead is necessary. Even if your plans change, you need some sort of road map.
To paraphrase Jim Rohn:
“If you don’t make plans for yourself,
someone else will make plans for you.”
What do you want to become a master at? In what areas of your life would you like to become more successful? Do you have a plan for your future?
1) Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2008. Print.