Running with bear spray: 10,000 hours vs. Opportunity


I first heard of the book “Outliers: The story of Success” by way of the song “10,000 hours” by Macklemore. *Hipster alert* I was a huge fan of his back in the day. You know, before he was famous. The song details the underdog success of Macklemore’s career, which at the time of the songs release, was still in it’s infancy. As a college student anxious to graduate and move on with my adult life I was hooked on the song immediately. Sure the beat was catchy but listening to someone talk about putting so much time and effort into their craft to make their dreams reality was inspiring.

For those of you who don’t know, the title of the song, 10,000 hours, is actually a reference to a particular popular and controversial chapter in Outliers. The chapter is titled, “The 10,000 hour rule”. Essentially the 10,000 hour rule boils down to the time you spend working on your craft, passion, or work. The general idea is that your talent level does not determine your level of success but rather, the amount of time you spend working at a particular skill. Malcom Gladwell summarizes the amount of time determined to be the point where someone masters a skill at 1o,000 hours of practicing said skill. For example, if you were to go out and buy a guitar today and started to practice each day, the amount of time needed to master the guitar would be around 10,000 hours.

That’s it? Just 10,000 hours? So just get through all those hours and I’ll be successful?

Unfortunately no. There are some killjoy informative articles out there that present studies that actually disagree with the importance of practice on mastering a skill. They argue that while practice is important, it’s just not as important as others are led to believe.

I honestly can’t argue with those articles. There are so many varying factors that attribute to one’s success. There is one thing I take exception to. They’re missing the whole point of Outliers.

It’s not about the amount of time it takes. It’s about having the opportunity.

While reading through Outliers earlier this year (yes I realize it took me a long time to actually read it) I noticed one thing most of these articles did not take into account. The point Malcom Gladwell is trying to make throughout the whole book is that successful people are not always particularly extraordinary or even smarter than you or me. They just take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them. Sure, the amount of time Bill Gates had programming on a computer at such a young age matters. His eventual success however was created by having the opportunity to program on a computer during a time where they were not only expensive but extremely limited for kids to have access to.

Time spent working on your craft, passion, or skill absolutely matters. It’s a contributing factor. Unfortunately it doesn’t guarantee success. Having an opportunity present itself is where success is found.

The opportunity you need to showcase the time spent preparing and working on your craft. Constantly improving yourself and your skills.

One thing that I personally struggle with is the frustration of not having the opportunities I believe will help me find success. We at times have no way of knowing when the right opportunity will come our way. The perfect job interview, the perfect date, the perfect house, the perfect _____ (fill in whatever it is you’re wanting in your life right now).

It can especially be disappointing when you know you’ve spent over 10,000 hours revising your resume and cover letters, over 10,000 hours looking at houses, and over 10,000 hours putting blood sweat and tears into something you’re passionate about. In the midst of rejection and lack of our desired outcomes, we quickly burnout. Lose sight of what we were working towards.

What’s important to remember is the ultimate goal you’ve set out to accomplish. It may not happen over night or just the way you dreamed it would happen. It may not even end up being exactly what you thought it would be in the end.

Being able to recognize the opportunities you currently have in front of you is half the battle. Being able to remain humble and tough it out through the times you simply just want to quit.

Run life smarter. Stay prepared. Stay persistent.


Question to confront

What’s your favorite self improvement or motivational book?



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Robert Robert
26 years old, living in Grand Rapids, working full-time while finishing up my masters degree, getting married in June to the girl who encouraged me to be a runner!

One Comment

  1. Posted September 17, 2017 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Keep up the good work! I have a bear chant that I use when running in remote locations! works like a charm. Congrats on your upcoming marriage!

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