Tag Archives: #10000hours

After a week in Kagoshima and Yakushima, known for its agriculture, I want to pay tribute to Japanese mastery and continuoius improvement.

Kagoshima is famous for its black Kurobuta pork perfected from the black Berkshire pig gifted by the UK.

Despite what you hear about over-worked Japanese office workers, a culture that coined the term Karoshi or death by over-work, it does not apply to farm animals. Pigs do get depression. Farmers know that unhappy pigs do not produce good meat. So they keep pigs happy with exercise and clean food.


This month while some are on holiday, Alibaba founder, Jack Ma made headlines advising young people the need to work 996, 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week.

Shortly after, he made an about turn when he drew a lot of negativity.

In a sense Jack Ma is not wrong. Malcolm Gladwell popularised the concept of “deliberate practice” or 10,000 hours rule that to achieve excellence, deliberate practice is needed. There is no true genius without hard work.

What is the difference between an overworked employee or a workaholic and a high performer?

Autonomy and
Sense of Purpose or Meaning.

Research abounds that working long hours with high stress is unproductive and harmful to the body. Source:

Hours do not translate to high stress.

Stress is caused by interpretation of the work, whether it is aligned to the individual’s motivation, sense of control and purpose.

Giving an individual more autonomy can ironically create more stress, if the individual has a low sense of self efficacy and external locus of control, ie they do not believe they have power to change their circumstances and are helpless victims of fate.

Some organisations have moved to using personality profiling to detect similarities in their top performers and recruit employees with a better fit.

Employees who link work to skills mastery, and career purpose are more engaged. (Daniel Pink).

To my 3rd year student who is wondering why he should bring home over the weekend for his internship:

Questions to reflect:

Mastery and Personal Excellence
1. Do the long hours contribute to personal mastery or deep skills?


2. Are the long hours the result of inefficiency, wasting time waiting for inputs or misguided attention?

3. How much of work can be automated?

4. Does personality differences make a difference in an ideal employee?

5. Is your boss abusing her authorities or is hard work the norm?

6. Do you believe you can make changes to your work and a personal difference? Self efficacy. Do you have an internal locus of control.

How will you know?
Keep a personal scoreboard. Track your activities. Do they match personal, department, organisation or community goals?

As they say, if you enjoy your work, you never need to work a single day.

Jack Ma to his employees:
“Don’t make me happy, don’t love me. Make your customer happy, make your customer love you, and I will love you any minute.‘”

Jack Ma U-turns on 996 work culture, says companies ‘foolish’ to force overtime


Sunbird on my balcony

Sunbird on my balcony

I’m interested in the subject of creativity. Singaporeans are known to be uncreative. Can we teach creativity?

We look at the entertainment field where creativity is de rigeur, the Korean drama and pop stars are today ruling the entertainment scene where the Japanese once reigned. Next in line would be the Taiwanese/ Hong Kongers.

Those of us who are old enough to remember, will recall, that not too long ago, the Japanese were the source of cheap manufacturing parts.  [In those days, we buy German products if you want quality.] Then, came the Koreans.  You go to Seoul for cheap, imitation Coach bags.  Then, came the Taiwanese. Today, of course, China rules the counterfeit market. Will China move out of this stigma and develop their own range of products.

In “Creativity – the psychology of Discovery and Invention” by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, from interviews with exceptional people, biologists, physicists to poets, artists and business leaders, he puts forth that the “tortured genius” is largely a myth. There’s a description on Anthony Hecht, a lyric poet, who among many awards, won the Pulitzer in 1968. 

“Like all other writers, Hecht learned to be one by reading extensively. He memorized poems until they “became part of my bloodstream”. Then he spent years writing in the voice of various poets he admired: John Donne, George Herbert etc.”

“Poetry is whatever poetry has been, with any new inventions that a new poet cares to add to that. But he can’t add to it without knowing what it has been.” 

Stephen King’s “On Writing” shared similar points about his journey. 

In Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, he discussed at length the same point, but named it “The 10,000 hours rule” citing Mozart.

Nothing is original, says Kirby Ferguson, creator of “Everything is a Remix”. From Bob Dylan to Steve Jobs, our most celebrated creators borrow, steal and transform and [put a trademark logo on it?]. Listen to his TED talk:

So how does one enhance personal creativity?

Some suggestions by Prof Cz:

1. Cultivate curiosity and creativity.

2. Cultivate flow in everyday life

3. Practice Habits of Strength

4. Internalise traits into your personality


Photo credits: Photos of sunbird outside my balcony. Taken by my husband, L who spent quite some 1000 minutes building rapport with his model.