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Friday, July 16, 2010

Couch Potatoes and Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers made a case for the link between 10,000 hours of practice and being an expert in something. It's a fascinating connection, and I've spent some time trying to figure out what I've put 10,000 hours into over the course of my life thus far. It's definitely something to consider.

I was reminded of this again today when I read Megan Dunham's article Addicted to Gaming. Kids these days, studies show, spend 10,000 playing video games and browsing the internet by the time they graduate high school.

Sounds pretty bad.

Until you read comment #7 (wish I could figure out how to link to it) which points out that 10,000 is less than a couple hours every day for fifteen years. And Facebook takes up a ton of that time. And considering the national average for TV consumption is twice that... well... <shrug>

Of course, there's also this.

I was thinking about going on to discuss pastimes of the past, hobbies, the reasons for "wasting time" as well as the many Biblical examples of people left out in the middle of nowhere for years--doing not much of anything. But that got cumbersome.

Instead, I was struck by just how little time 10,000 hours is. Consider:
  • If you've got a high schooler, you've likely spent well over 10,000 hours preparing meals.
  • Your husband hit that number in just 5 years of employment.
  • I put in close to 10,000 hours over the course of my sports career.
  • You'll be approaching that much time reading to your children when you become an Heirloom Member with Sonlight.

Sure, your children will be well on their educational journey, but I'm not an Olympian (not even close). While your husband is good at his job, it's likely he's not progressed to a level worthy of the tens of thousands of hours required to make him a success (as posited by Gladwell). And even though you've put all that time into feeding your family, not many of you have been asked to host a cooking show.


In other words, Gladwell is right to emphasize the many other factors that go into success (including "luck"). And while we certainly don't want to skip out on doing something we should be doing, I'm not going to blame my lack of success on the times I take a break.

Sure, a wise man once noted that a little laziness can bring poverty, but he also realized that time and chance happen to all of us.

So, please, don't let your kids become a couch potatoes. But, at the same time, please don't push them in the hopes that they become outliers. We need to find satisfaction in what we do. Follow where God leads. And rejoice in the rest and time God has given us... including the time to goof off.

What are you up to this weekend? Have any of your 10,000 hours paid off recently?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester


Katie said...

I really enjoyed that book, but at the same time, didn't share his measure of success. The 10,000 hours thing is pretty crazy. I hadn't thought of it being 5 years of normal why do all these companies want 10 years or more of experience? Do they think people are spending half of their workday on facebook?

Megan said...

I need to ask the original bringer of the statistic to clarify it again - it was either 10,000 hours of gaming just in high school (4 years) or also included jr. high (6 years) but was not meant to encompass the whole of their lives up to that point.

So I botched it a bit.

Luke Holzmann said...

Katie, I was shocked about the 10,000 hours thing too. I think there's something about how those 10,000 hours are spent that makes them more valuable to some than to those of us just living out our lives. Don't know what it is exactly, though <smile>.

Thanks for jumping in here and adding more, Megan! I've heard the stat of 10,000 hours elsewhere, but not in just four to six years. That would be more of an investment <smile>. Still, I live on my computer... so don't even ask me how much of my life has been spent "plugged in" ...and I'm not even much of a gamer!



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