10,000 Hours of Entrepreneur-ing

By January 2, 2009blog

I recently read Outliers (thanks John Fischer!) while on vacation in Mexico. It BLEW my mind! It’s about how focused people produce dramatically better results. The tipping point for being an “expert” is about 10,000 hours to be exact. The Beatles Sgt. Peppers album was at 10,000 hours. Bill Gates’ MSDOS started programming endless hours in middle school. Tiger Woods… you get it.

While this should not be a surprise to anyone, it is a RARITY for people to be PASSIONATELY focused on one thing. When they are, especially in an area where few others are, they stand out and tend to excel, especially if the world wants what they have/know.

It got me thinking about where I have passionately focused the hours of my own life. I’ve been an “entrepreneur” my whole life starting at age 11 with selling candy out of my locker and a snow blowing business, then high school with a house painting business, then college with a loft reselling business and student advertising business, then out of college with a outdoor film festival business and lecture note-taking business and a national student advertising business, and five years ago till recently – RegOnline’s online event registration business. A lot of them were happening concurrently. I’ve REALLY enjoyed building each of the businesses customer by customer, employee by employee, one brick at a time.

I also can remember having NO CLUE on how to do most things and driving myself crazy trying to figure them out: recruiting, hiring, firing, collecting debts, being in debt, sales calls, holiday parties, marketing materials, websites, AN employee who went postal, SEO, taxes, pricing, renting office space, taking care of unhappy customers, creating bonus plans, etc. Two interesting points on reflecting back:

  1. It DID get easier each time I did each of these things AND I did get progressively better at each
  2. Taking care of customers the way THEY want to be taken care of was ALWAYS easy for me – the challenge was keeping it at the top of my To Do list.

I can see why 10,000 hours is a tipping point. We need about 5,000 hours to stop stumbling through all the stuff we didn’t really know from experience. Then the next 2,500 hours becomes about iterating experiences that start to give us real competency. And then the last 2,500 hours is what turns our practices into art forms where we have no more fear, we can fully and effortlessly engage our minds, hearts, and souls into creating things the world has never seen before.

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