The Value Of Work

January 19, 2009
Estimated reading time:
2 minutes

One of the things that everyone has been talking about recently is Gladwell's newest book, Outliers. Fair enough, I've read it, and so has everyone else.

But the thing most people seem to remember from the book is the 10,000 hour rule: that to be truly brilliant at anything you need to put in around 10,000 hours (which works out at approximately 3 hours a day for 10 years). I'm not going to comment on whether this is true or false, because probably the only things I've done in my life for 10,000 hours is sleep and waste time on the internet, both of which I consider myself world-class at.

A lot of Outliers focuses on the other factors that influence success: birth dates, cultural heritages, that sort of thing. But are any of them as important as working your fucking ass off?

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the best comedians in the world. He had one of the most popular shows of all time, and he has legions of fans. In the film Comedian (which I watched on Charlie Hoehn's recommendation -- it's a great film for anyone interested in stand-up comedy) the camera follows Jerry around the country watching him develop new standup material. He works, and works, and works his ass off. He hits numerous comedy clubs on the same night, for months on end, trying out new material, tightening it, refining it and making it great. He puts in hours and hours of work.

And he's been doing it for years. That's why he's the best. He's not the best because he was born in 1954, or because his parents were Jewish. It's because he writes jokes every single day, does multiple sets night after night for months on end and spends hours every day obsessing over every single thing he does on stage to make sure he has the best possible act he can have.

He's the best because he works harder than everyone else around him. There's nothing stopping any one of us from being the best at whatever it is we want to do. You just have to work hard enough for it. You have to work, and work, and work. And then work some more.Now I just have to find something worth working for.

---Addendum: I'm probably still a bit too young, naive and inexperienced to totally get what he's saying, but Tucker Max (yes, I'm talking about him again) did a fantastic speech at UCLA the other day about following your dreams, which you can watch here. I know it sounds cheesy, but trust me, it's not.

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