Practice Makes Perfect: The Power of 10,000 Hours

Practice Makes Perfect: The Power of 10,000 Hours
© Chris Van Lennep | Dreamstime.com

In Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” he posits that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill, whether it be playing the violin, skateboarding, or computer programming. From the Beatles to Bill Gates, the biggest factor in their success, Gladwell argues, is their dedication to their chosen craft. These experts have literally programmed their bodies to handle the rote portion of the tasks (because practice makes habit), which has allowed them to focus on the artistry of their craft.

Let’s look at Bill Gates. In 1968 he joined a computer club and completed his first computer program at the age of 13. By 1971 he was spending all his free time in the computer center at the University of Washington. In 1973 he spent his senior year of high school working as a programmer under the guise of “independent study.” With over 10,000 hours of practice logged, in 1975 he dropped out of Harvard and launched Microsoft.

For those of us who are, ahem, a bit past the window of practicing a craft from age 13, there is still hope to supplement the power of 10,000 hours.

Tips to Assure Practice Makes Perfect:

=Get a coach

=Surround yourself with like-minded individuals
=Build expert habits
=Don’t be distracted by drama
=Deliberately practice
=Teach others
=Find someone to kick your butt if you fall off track

For those of us in hospitality… work on programming yourself on the basis of the guest experience. Foundational hospitality should be so ingrained in you that it is impossible for you to walk down the street without looking people in the eye, smiling, and greeting verbally. (When travelling one summer, my travel companion gently reminded me, “you know you don’t work here, right?”).

Just as a writer should not be spending time considering questions of punctuation and grammar, hospitality professionals should not have to remind ourselves to carry out the basics. True experts focus on the art of the craft.  As Seth Godin has said, “If you fear special requests, if you staff with cogs, if you have to put it all in a manual, then the chances of amazing someone are really quite low.”

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