Ten Thousand Hours

A Report by Aly Mulconnery

Ten thousand hours. That’s 416.667 days. 600,000 minutes. That is how much time any successful person clocks in practicing at their sport, talent, or career, before they make it big. This is the rule outlined in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. The question is, are you willing to put in that much time to reach your dream? And if you are, how far along are you? Ten thousand hours is a lot of time to remain completely focused on one thing.  You could spend 10,000 hours perfecting your backhand or Symphony No. 8 in D major. You could spend 10,000 hours entering codes late into the night or writing 1,667 words a day. Now for a driven and dedicated individual this does not seem like much. In fact, for many people who have been working towards their dream since they were children this is easily done. Some of us are well on our way to reaching this tipping point and falling onto the easy slope to success. However, what do we miss in 10,000 hours?

We miss birthdays. We miss anniversaries. We miss going to Disney World for a family reunion. I remember writing my mom a letter when I was six years old in my chicken scratch handwriting. It read, “Mommy, I’d give up my horse for you to stop traveling. I just want my mommy home”. Now that was a big deal being put on the table from a horse-crazed girl like me. My mom asked her boss to cut down her travel hours the next week and we soon found ourselves moving to Austin, Texas from California so my mom could stay home. The moral of the story is that even for a successful businesswoman who put off family for many years to establish her career, reality sometimes strikes. There are important things outside of our careers and more relatable for many of us, outside of school. What happens when this begins to happen to even younger generations?

The Perfect Balance

Our school in particular is filled with talented individuals both inside and outside the classroom. We are all blessed with not just extraordinary abilities, but with true passion to use our gifts. And while many blow it off as completely normal, fretting over an A- as if it were an F is not normal. That is passion, if not a tad obsessive. This remarkability is what makes people outliers and allows them to reach such high levels of success in their fields, but what do they lose along the way? It is impossible to be completely focused and driven towards one goal and not lose sight of other things such as family, friends, and fun. Without these our health can begin to sink too, and soon enough we find ourselves wishing we had done things differently.

“The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing” by Bonnie Ware lists these as being the number one things people regret not doing on their dying days:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

While reading “How Will You Measure Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen, a renowned professor at Harvard as well as the leading thinker on innovation, I began seeing these five regrets unfolding in the stories told about some of his classmates who had lost multiple wives as well as family members, and he had even been arrested years after graduating from Harvard with promising futures. And even scarier, I began seeing them unfold in my own future. While I believe that everyone should pursue their dreams with the utmost passion and focus they can muster and let nothing stop them, there is a time that everyone must stop, look around, and evaluate if this is really what their dream was in the beginning. Because at the root of all of this, don’t our dreams stem from the desire to be happy and to make a difference? Did I want to make straight A’s throughout my education? Well, yes. Do I want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Well, yes. Do I want to come home to an empty home every night? Did I want to lose touch with all my family and friends? Well, no. As cliché as it is, there is a balance to everything in life and while life is about taking risks and making sacrifices to achieve your dreams, life is also about weighing the costs and gains. I encourage you to expand your dreams to include your personal dreams, which includes what you do outside of the practice fields or outside of the office. Go forth with no regrets and pursue your well-being as strongly as you pursue that A.

Image Credit: Pintilie, Daniel. Life Work. Digital image. Instant Shift. N.p., 29 May 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.

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