Ten Thousand Hours

Malcolm Gladwell has a book called Outliers. Maybe you’ve heard of it. But more likely, if you have listened to the radio in the last year, you are more familiar with Macklemore’s “Ten Thousand Hours”. This song is based on a concept that he borrowed from Gladwell. His idea is that it takes 10, 000 hours to become an expert. He said, “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”*

Macklemore wrote about the people who “put their passion before being comfortable.” The song is about how doing what you love is a struggle, and it takes a lot of time and work. 

Here are some of the most important lyrics that I want to talk about:

“I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him”

“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot”

“No child left behind, that’s the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is”

Many people in our parent’s generation talk about college being this place for you to “find yourself”, as if you have all the time in the world to find your niche and discover what you are meant to do with your life. Unfortunately, in reality, every time you don’t take a class, you risk not being able to take higher level class and graduate on time, because there are prerequisites that need to be met. In our parents generation being there 4 1/2, 5 years might not have been that big of a deal. But we don’t live in that time. We face rising tuition costs. We face an uncertain job market. We face problems that didn’t exist 20, 30 years ago. So not having it all figured out is a lot more unsettling for us. At the same time, we struggle to understand that no one truly ever has everything figured out. When you’re in an academic setting that concept is easily lost. You want to know everything. In fact, it seems that the more time you spend in the library, the closer you are to accumulating all the world’s knowledge. And with the Internet at our fingertips, it’s hard not to believe that we can know everything.

In a few short months, I feel like I have actually changed a lot. I guess I expected that. I’m in a new place, away from my family and the friends that I grew up with. When I got back for Thanksgiving break I realized that I found myself thinking about August Taylor. I stepped back for a second, realizing that I had both referred to myself in third person and indicated that November Taylor was a different person. August Taylor believed that it was important to figure it all out now. I was going to go into a field that would guarantee me a job because of the field. Maybe I would be an engineer–maybe a businesswoman. I would take math next semester, because I like math, right? I would start seeing the world in different terms, asking all the right questions.

It took one conversation to change that, to recognize that this person I wanted to be wasn’t me. One night I was heading to the library and I ran into a guy from one of my classes. He asked where I was headed and I asked where he was headed, and before I knew it, I had told him that I was going to come with him to find a new study spot. I didn’t even ask (which is very unlike me)–it’s like something just told me that I should go. Later we were talking about what we wanted to do with our lives, and I told him that I was thinking about engineering. That’s when he told me that he was considering screenwriting, but he wasn’t really sure yet. I said, “Stop. That’s what I want to do with my life, but I’m too afraid.” He said that he wasn’t.

I wish that I could say “And that was it. That’s when I decided to follow my dream.” But I can’t. I don’t have a special turning point where I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. All I know is that I am done trying to see the world through the eyes of someone that I am not. After a lot of encouragement from friends, my grandma, and even some people I barely know, I have decided to start living for me. I know that both my parents want me to be an engineer, and have a fantastic starting salary. Making a living is important, and I recognize that.

But when Macklemore says, “I could be what I wanted if I could see my potential”, it really resonates with me. When I graduate from college, I am not going to know everything. I might not have it all figured out. And it’s not going to be easy, but I think I am going to put my passion before being comfortable.

 “Cause the moment is now
Can’t get it back from the grave”

*Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. United States: Little, Brown and Company, 2008. Print.