In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claimed that it requires 10,000 hours to master a skill. That’s an average of 90 minutes per day for 20 years. Now, there has been some debate about that number and, obviously, it depends on what you’re trying to master, but it sufficiently makes the point: there is almost never a shortcut to success.
People who are successful make it look easy, but 99% of them will tell you that it took a lot of hard luck to achieve their success. Sure, a few people here and there get lucky, but that’s akin to winning the lotto. If you’re waiting around expecting something to just happen, you’re going to be sadly mistaken. Remember, you’re often viewing successful people without understanding their journey to success. That’s like seeing a beautiful butterfly without realizing it started out as an ugly caterpillar. This is why most successful people have an origin story. They started small with no money, but through hard work and determination achieved success. Remember, sweat equity almost always compensates for a lack of money. Just look at how many great companies started out of garages and bedrooms with only a couple of people doing all of the work.
Most people don’t realize that “big breaks” don’t just happen. Too many people wait around for good things to happen to them but that’s not the way success happens for most people. Putting in the hard work lays the foundation for success. That foundation then creates the environment necessary for those “big breaks” to occur. Professional athletes put in 1,000s of hours of practice to prepare for that one big moment in a game.
Many people want to make excuses about why they’re not successful. They complain about a lack of money or social standing, or perhaps their born at the wrong time or the wrong color, but the world’s harsh reality is that life isn’t fair. You can keep complaining or start doing something about it. Now, as a disclaimer, I’m a white male born into a middle class family so you can choose to vilify me and discredit what I have to say, but it doesn’t make what I’m saying any less true. I know a lot of people who have started life on third base and face planted halfway to home never to make anything of themselves. You know why? Because they weren’t willing to put in the hard work to take advantage of their extraordinary advantage. I’m also making no excuses for the injustices that still exist in the world and acknowledge the great privileges I enjoy based on no merit of my own. But, remember this, regardless of your race, class, gender, or sexual orientation, if you were born in a Western country, especially the United States, you’ve already won the lottery. You could have been born into a third world country struggling everyday just to survive. As much as we try to coddle people, at the end of the day, the world just doesn’t care about your excuses.
But here’s the good news, time is life’s great equalizer. Assuming all other variables remain same, two people have exactly the same amount of time. It’s how you choose to spend your time that defines who you are and how your life will go. Many successful people will tell you that they knew people who were comparatively smarter, wealthier, or more athletic, but hard work can overcome all of those barriers. So, how are you spending your time? Watching Netflix, hanging out at the bar, or working towards your goals?
I do want to make one important clarification. Hard work without a purpose and a plan is just misery. That’s a recipe for burnout and unhappiness. Just like in sports, there’s no point in playing a game where the requirements for victory have not been defined. You need to define success in your own life and everyone is going to have a different definition success. However, that’s part of a much bigger topic that I hope to discuss in a future post.
So, here’s the takeaway. Define your goals then get to work achieving them. It’s that simple. Don’t make excuses, just start working. Every journey begins with one small step, so what are you waiting for?