Are You Passionate or Are You an Expert?

October 19th, 2015

Becca Hand

Creative Director

One of my favorite authors is Malcom Gladwell. He strikes that balance between personal stories, nerdy data, and practical usefulness that very few achieve. In his book, “Outliers” he talks about the 10,000 hour rule.

If you aren’t familiar with that “rule” it is fairly simple — those who spend 10,000 hours on a particular skill ultimately become experts.

It’s not a guarantee for success, there isn’t some “plug and chug” formula, but it certainly seems to help.

For instance, did you know that Bill Gates actually had unprecedented access to a computer programming terminal starting in high school? Sure he was smart and driven, but he also honed his skills day after day and night after night. By the time he started Microsoft, he had put in his time.

The Beatles are no different. They honed their skills for years in Hamburg, Germany prior to becoming the band we all know.

So how many of us have really invested 10,000 hours?

Very rarely is luck at play in our success. To be fair — connections, timing and innate talent certainly matter, but there seems to be some truth to the saying “practice makes perfect”.

In an age where everyone’s opinion seems to matter, or at least where we’re exposed to those opinions, have we truly invested the necessary time to become experts in our field? Have we earned the right to be heard?

There’s the 11 a.m. version of you and the 11 p.m. version of you.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to really become an expert. But there are enough hours at night and on the weekends. What keeps you up at night? Where are you investing your extra time? What do you find yourself constantly drawn towards time and time again? Who are you at 11 p.m. when the day is done and your mask comes off?

The things we are truly passionate about, the things really worth investing in, will manifest themselves in those hours no one else sees.

The greatest companies, the most profound novels, the best ideas, they weren’t born at 10 a.m. They were born on the nights and the weekends. They were crammed in the margins of the day. It wasn’t convenient or easy but it was worth choosing hour after hour, day after day.

The things you choose to pursue at 11 p.m. are a clue to what you’re truly passionate about.

And passion is the gateway to expertise.

We will only practice the 10,000 hour rule if we’re willing to commit to the margins. We will only earn the right to be heard when we’ve fully invested our spare time and developed our passions.

Cultivating passion isn’t easy, nor should it be.

It’s not enough to be passionate about our jobs when in reality it is our job to be passionate.

Passion is something to nurture, develop, and grow. It’s something that chooses you and you choose it back. Quite often our passion looks a lot like a good relationship. It requires sacrifice and a willingness to know ourselves to completely engage in the things we’re passionate about. It means spending less time reading about other people’s passions and genuinely developing our own.

Expertise is earned.

Explore what keeps you up at night. Develop a schedule. Spend time sacrificing.

You have 10,000 hours. The clock is ticking.