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10,000 Hours to Success — How To Harness the Personal Power of Passion, Persistence, and Practice

Updated on April 23, 2016

Really Passionate About Success? Practice Ten Thousand Hours!

Did you know that the participants in the opening ceremonies at the Turnin Olympic did daily drills for over a year. By the time the games began, they had practiced their routines more than ten thousand times? Or that, in the year leading up to the Turin games, Canadian figure skaters practiced each element in their programs 14,000 times? Over their careers, they had practiced more than ten thousand hours.

Similarly, research done in Richard Davidson's University of Wisconsin Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior found that Buddhist monks who tested off the scale for inner peace and compassion had sat in meditation for over ten thousand hours? That's why they call it spiritual practice!

Ten thousand hours! Why so long? Exeperts such as Daniel Levitin, the author of This Is Your Brain On Music, and Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers: The Story of Success figure that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert in almost anything.

Musicians, artists, athletes, actors, writers, chess players, yoga and meditation practitioners, and experts in all fields know that there is awesome power contained in practice and persistence, and sustained by passion.

But I'm regularly surprised by coaching clients who want to learn new skills, make changes in their lives, and create results they long for -- but balk at practice. Although they may have a passion for their result, they lack the persistence to do the drills and build the skills that will give them the capacity to make changes, and create desired results.

The Ten Thousand Hour Rule

"If you want to be a writer," wrote Ray Bradbury, "write a million words!" He wrote one thousand words a day from the age of twelve on. He wrote stories for ten years, before one was accepted for publication. Another example of someone rewarded by the ten thousand hour rule.

Bradbury was driven by his passion for story. He said (and this applies to anything you're passsionate about, not just writing), "if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. . . . the first thing a writer should be is—excited. He should be a thing of fever and enthusiasms."

When he started, he wrote for ten years without selling a single story. But, driven by his passion and feverish enthusiasm, Bradbury's 1000-words-a-day practice, and his dogged persistence, yielded hundreds of award-winning short stories, and best-selling novels such as Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, and Fahrenheit 451.

But many people I meet and work with don't think success works the way Bradbury does. Many have fallen victim to simplistic "if you can dream it, you can do it" approaches such as the Secret. But many people dream things that they can never do. Many people visualize results that never manifest. In life, work, relationship, just about anything that matters, the real secret to success is practice, practice, practice!

MASTERY: The Result of Passion, Practice, and Persistence

Passion is the power source that drives practice, and makes results seekers persist over time, and in the face of difficulty. True, there is great power in dreaming and visualizing, but to tap into that power and apply it, you have to practice. And to practice, you have to love what you do.

Passion is a necessary component of success, but, alone, it is not enough. Vision without action deteriorates into daydreaming. Without persistent practice, passion fades.

So how can you integrate passion, practice, and persistence to produce the real and lasting results that you long for?

Persistent practice is key to developing mastery in whatever truly matters to you. Mastery is the critical requirement for expertise, and expertise is needed to consistently produce high-level results.

"Mastery," says author and Akido Master George Leonard is, "the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult beomes progressively easier and more pleasureable through practice. Practice and persistence, driven by passion, is the formula for and mastery.

In other words, just do it!. And stick with it when it gets hard. In Aikido, the master is the one who stays on the mat five minutes longer than anybody else.

Powered by passion, persistent practice helps you move along the learning curve until you hit that sweet spot—about 80% of the way into the process—where the curve starts to rise sharply, and results come easily.This is where the ration between input and output, between practice and performance flips. In the beginning of any learning, while you're on the long, flat part of the curve, you put in great amounts of time and effort, but see little in the way of results. But, on the steep part of the curve, small amounts of practice yeild large results.

Although rich in natural talent, Wayne Gretzky, the "Great One" of hockey fame, practiced long hours on the rink behind his house, starting when he was 3 or 4 years old. HIs father drilled him in the basics of hockey skills. Later, when he started playing organized hockey, Gretzky was known for being first on and last off the ice, still practicing drills, and learning new strategies.

The Great One translated his natural talent into real and lasting success through passion, practice, and persistence. The great ones in other sports such as golf, baseball, volleyball, and football all do the same drill based practice. You can do the same. Practice, persistent practice, trumps talent almost every time.

The More You Practice, The Luckier You Get

As well as talent and practice, success almost always requires a dose of luck. But, the experts tell us, you can make your own luck. Not only do practice and persistence tap passion's power. They also make you lucky.

When interviewed after winning a major tournament, legendary golfer Ben Hogan explained this phenomenum to a reporter .

"Mr. Hogan," he was asked, "You were under intense pressure in this tourney yet you consistently hit outstanding shots. How do you do it?"

"Hmm," said the laid back Hogan, "I suppose I'm just lucky."

"Luck?" said the reporter. "But you practice more hours than any other player on the tour."

"Well," said Hogan, "I guess the more I practice, the luckier I get."

Hogan loved golf. Gretzky loved hockey. Twyla Tharp, world famous dancer and choregrapher, and author of The Creative Habit, who often spent up to eight hours a day, training and practicing boring drills, loved dance. A kid I grew up with wanted to be a football star. He hung an old tire in his back yard, and practiced throwing footballs through it for hours on end. His success was a national championship and a football scholarship to an excellent university.

Enduring successes in all fields comes from people who love what they do. Great rewards come to those who do the drills, persist in their efforts, and practice until they achieve mastery, grace, and excellence—and the capacity create outstanding results.

What DO you love? What are you passionate about?

The Most Painful But Most Creative Act In Life

What turns your crank? What gets your juices flowing? What brings you most fully alive and engaged? What do you most want to create?

If answering these questions is difficult, you are in good company. Business expert and author Sir Geoffrey Vickers asserts that, "Learning what to want is the most radical, the most painful, and the most creative art of life.”

Three things prevent most of us from knowing what we really want.

• First, instead of focusing on what matters most to us, we focus on what is second, third, or tenth most important, because we're afraid to fail—or even to succeed—at what's most important.

• Second, when asked about their passion, many of my clients are quick with "YEAH, BUT…" comebacks. They say things such as, "I know what I am passionate about, BUT I do not know how to do it." Or, "I want to do "x", but I do not have enough time. Or money. Or confidence." Or, often, "Yes, I want that, BUT somebody or something always gets in my way."

In the "yeah, but…" comeback, you argue for your own limitations. And, as the old saying goes, "if you argue for your limitations, they're yours."

Does that sound like you? Or someone you know? Listen for, and catch those "yeah, buts…". You'd do far better if you saw your situation from a "Yes, and…" stance. If you say, "Yes, I'd like to do "x" and I don't know how to do it," it almost automatically move you into action: "What should I do to get started?"

• If you have trouble with "yeah, buts…", a third reason that knowing what to want is difficult might be because you work out of a "fixed" mindset. Mindset—the way you see and make sense of the world, and what happens to you—makes a major difference in whether you create real and lasting success, or not.

"Experience," said Aldous Huxley, "is not what happens to us, it's what we do with what happens to us." And mindset is a key determinant of what you do with what happens to you.

If you operate out of a fixed mindset, you are likely to dismiss what you most want as a pie-in-the-sky impossibility. "Yeah, that'd be great, but . . . I could never do it."

The motivational energy created by the "Yeah!" in the "yeah, but…" response is instantly negated by the "but… With no energy, there is not action, no results, and no success. So pay attention to your own mindset. Is if a fixed and closed mindset? Or is your mindset open to growth, learning and change.

Your Mindset Determines Your Success (Or Lack Of It)

In her book, MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford professor Carol Dweck identifies two different mindsets (or belief structures) that play critical roles in whether we succeed at what matters to us, or not.

The Fixed Mindset

People who operate out of a fixed mindset, Dweck has found, believe that their intelligence, talents, and ability to create results that matter are fixed, and not open to change. People in this mindset believe that you either have talent and ability, or you do not. Nothing, they believe, can be done to change these fixed traits.

Because they believe their traits and abilities are fixed, people with fixed mindsets focus on proving they are talented. To do so they focus on demonstrating what they do well. Instead of learning new skills, they concentrate on covering up weaknesses with well-practiced strengths.

Because they are afraid to fail or look foolish, they close themselves to new practice and learning. As a result, they fail to grow new talents and abilities. They fail to achieve mastery in what matters to them, and the success they desire.

The Growth Mindset and Success

People who operate with a GROWTH mindset do believe in mastery. They believe that their intelligence, talents, and ability to create can be developed through the progressive application of passion, practice, and persistence.

Such people do not have to prove that they are smart or able. They are not afraid to look foolish, if it will lead to learning. They risk failing because they know that growth and change are possible, and that failure is useful feedback that leads to learning, change, and growth.

For growth mindset people , success is not about grooming their image. It is about mastery, about learning what it takes to create what they most want. Growth mindset people are passionate about the results they want to create, and passionate about learning how to best do so. They believe that passion-driven practice and persistence will lead to improved abilities, increased talent, and, in time—perhaps as much as ten thousand hours—successful results.

If you fear that your mindset is closed, there is good news. You can learn to work from a growth mindset. By embracing and mastering a growth mindset, you will likely create success beyond that which you have been able to create so far.

Embracing The Growth Mindset

Dweck reports that managers who learned the growth mindset in 90-minute workshops succeeded in shifting from fixed to growth mindsets, and sustained their results for up to six months. Those who persisted in their practice sustained their results for longer periods.

In Dweck's "mindset" workshops, the managers read an article and watched a video about how the brain changes and grows with learning. Then they were asked to do four things:

• List three reasons why they thought it is important to think that ability can be developed;

• Bring to mind an area where they had developed an ability, and explain how they made the changes involved;

• Email a hypothetical protégé describing how ability can be developed, and

• Recall examples of when they saw someone else learn to do something they did not think that person could do. And then think about how that learning happened, and what it means.

If you want to develop a growth mindset and succeed at what truly matters to you, I suggest that you try out these four techniques yourself. I recommend that you try them repeatedly. Really practice them; do not just do them once or twice and quit. Do them over and over again, like you would do fielding skills in baseball, or yoga practice. Keep practicing until you notice yourself making changes. Then keep practicing until the growth mindset becomes your new default, go-to habit.

When you develop a growth mindset, you will be able to tap into that awesome power of passion, through persistent practice. You will be able to harness your time and effort in the service of your deepest desires and highest aspirations.

I doubt that creating the success you long for will take ten thousand hours. But if it does, it will be worth it. Won't it?


Bruce Elkin is the author of 3 books — Simplicity and Success, THRIVE! and The ABCs of Emotional Mastery. He is an internationally known Personal Life Coach, and Professional Success Coach.

For more of his writing, please visit his HubPages profile.


Fleetwood Mac and 10,000 hours!


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