Work Hard or Work Smart? 10,000 hours

My mom is upset. My brother has been telling his kids to work smart not work hard.  His 11 yr old daughter, took him literally and failed 3 of her 4 subjects in school.  She is a smart girl.  She completed her exams with 45 mins to spare, and slept in the exam hall. She’s working smart and fast. Or so she thought. 

More discouraging news. My 9 yr old nephew struggles to learn his Mandarin. His class mate said that all he needed to do, was take “one glance” and he could write all the words for his Mandarin test. My mom goes on about how smart other people’s kids are, forgetting that my brother and my nephew are products of her genes too. One mother told my mom that her son just loves to study. After school, he automatically opens his bag, and studies.

In this unexciting economic condition of high inflation, tough competition, what advice we give to our kids? Survival of the fittest? I want to believe Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule. No natural giftedness. Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped out of college to form Microsoft in 1975. Genius. It’s that simple: Drop out of college, start a company, and become a billionaire.

[Hmm. I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid, and I think a great deal of that grew out of the fact that I had a chance to read a lot. -Bill Gates]

Further study reveals that Gates and Allen had thousands of hours of programming practice prior to founding Microsoft. Energy and enthusiasm.

Intuitively, we know from the examples given, Bill Gates, Beatles, Mozart, that you must have deep desire to spend that much time.

What then do you make of stories from relatives, burying their heads under books and yet got retrenched?

How this 10,000 hours is spent is important.  Design your own apprenticeship programme.

1. Focus and specialise. 10,000 hours must be spent on the foundation, the basics.

2. Who brings in the bacon? What is the critical differentiating factor? In many companies, the department which brings in the sales. Or the fire-power.

3. Cross-fertilise with the cutting-edge ideas.

4. What appears on the surface?  What are the undercurrents? The power relationships, insecurities, egos, networks, gatekeepers. [Warren Buffet was turned down by Ben Graham several times.]

5. Maintain positive energy. Don’t let the dogs get you down. Keep walking.

6. Systemic thinking vs Fresh perspective.  Throughout transformational periods, we see upstarts unencumbered by years of experience to introduce fresh change. Remain humble and watch for these upstarts who have designed their own apprenticeship systems and look beyond their age but their compressed 10,000 hours.   

7.  “The cure for burnout is to learn something.” Barbara Sher quoting Merlin in Camelot.  

8. Get past writers block. Have a system not just goals.  Successful writers who have gotten past writers’ block talk about setting systems such as writing 10 pages without censorship of quality.  Or writing 5 pages before going to work. [Forget the myth of drugs and alcohol = creativity. Coltrane once admitted that his creativity was not due to drugs. In fact, it cost him his creativity. “Mastery” by Robert Greene.] 







The best way to prepare [to be a programmer] is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and fished out listings of their operating system. -Bill Gates

[50 Bill Gates Quotes on What successful people do – Jeff Moore]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: