I have long held the belief that one of the main differences between successful people and those that are less so is that successful people use the same amount of time doing things, as do less successful people apply to wasting their time.

By successful, I am not talking about how much money they have made, but about how successful they have been in achieving significant things in their lives. I have a nephew who is a talented and dedicated high school teacher, who has played a significant role over the last 30 years in changing and developing his young charges, and I am sure that he will be remembered with gratitude by those that have passed through his classrooms. In the same vein, I doubt that Mother Theresa spent much of her time sitting in front of a TV set watching re-runs of Sally Field in “The Flying Nun”.

As well, when I talk about doing things, I don’t just mean things that are necessarily of world shattering significance. I mean things that expand our life experiences, skills and knowledge, like sport, reading, going for a walk, working in the garden, or sitting and thinking about something real rather than just sitting and watching the general rubbish that is dished out on television these days.

This was well understood even back in Geoffrey Chaucer’s days (c 1343-1400) , when the expression “Idle hands are the Devil’s tools” was a well known maxim, so why is it that so many people seem have forgotten it these days.

I recently read “Outliers, the story of success” by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he discusses the fact that to become an expert at something you need to be able to put in 10,000 hours of commitment, practice and application to achieve this, whether it is as a pro-golfer or a concert violinist.

Girl playing violin

10,000 hours is a number that is large enough to not be easily comprehensible, so I decided that I needed to break this down into smaller chunks along the lines of the expression that “the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”. So, over 20 years these 10,000 hours equate to 500 hours per year, which are about 10 hours per week, or only 1.5 hours a day. This means that it should not be terribly hard for most people to become expert at something that they find important with just a little application, commitment and planning.

Even if we start this journey say at 30, assuming that before then we are still in the irresponsible phase of our lives, we could all be experts at something worthwhile by about 50, which would still give us a lot of time to use this expertise well. Furthermore, this use of 1.5 hours per day is not a major sacrifice, as for most people it just means giving up just 30-50% of the time in front of their TV ….they can still watch a large number of re-runs and bad movies.

Theoretically, if people gave up watching TV completely (apart from things that they actually planned to watch and were worth watching), many people could easily halve the elapsed time needed to achieve their 10,000 hours and actually become experts in their chosen field in just 10 years rather than 20.

Unfortunately it just isn’t going to happen … we will continue to have a small number of true experts, and a large number of people who just think that they are experts.

As John Cleese points out in a must-see 10 minute video which you can find on Youtube by searching on “John Cleese Creativity”, to know how good you are at something requires the same skills needed to be good at that thing, so if you are absolutely hopeless at something, you lack exactly those skills to know that you are hopeless at it.

This does explain a lot about life, and why there are so many people around who are self-proclaimed experts about all sorts of things in life, and yet who do spout the most awful drivel continually on their area of so called expertise, and why there are so many obviously incapable people in senior positions around the world.

I have decided that when I come across these people in the future, I will ask them to prove to me that they have actually passed the requisite 10,000 hours in true dedication and application to their claimed area of expertise, before I accept anything that they have to say on the subject.

I do hope that I have the skills to be able to identify them.



  1. Darren Poke says:

    Nice one. I especially like the Malcolm Gladwell reference. 10,000 hours seems like a lot, but the sacrifice is worth it and it’s better than wasting your life away.

    Thanks for posting it.

  2. leshayman says:

    HI Darren,
    Thanks for the kind words.
    I particularly appreciate the input from such a successful blogger and fellow Mebournian (Princess Hill, Universtiy High and Monash) before moving to NZ … I know it’s a very Melbournian thing to do to mention schools !!!
    Your blog is great reading (even with the typos 🙂 ), and I recommend it to my readers.

  3. Hermann says:

    TV and social security is nothing else than “panem et circenses”. We are at a time comparable to the Roman Empire prior to its decline – or midst in its decline. Therefore it is not surprising …

  4. leshayman says:

    Hi Hermann,
    You are right … the whole focus is to appease the masses.
    Social security provides the bread and TV is the modern circus.
    Thjere is nothing more docile and pliant than a fed and amused populace, and therefore so much more shocking when it all falls apart.

  5. Sunil Geness says:

    Hello Les,the John Cleese part is a classic-and oh so true!
    Best regards
    Sunil Geness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: