Subject: Success — The 10,000 Hours Rule
Event: The Beatles first appear on Ed Sulivan, 1964
On February 9, 1964, a British band made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan television show. Approximately 73 million Americans watched as The Beatles launched what became known as the “British Invasion.” Instead of military might, The Fab Four used musical might to conquer their audiences. Anyone who watched that night saw firsthand the effects of Beatlemania: teenage girls screamed, hyperventilated, and swooned as they watched the band from Liverpool play.
Most Americans who watched that night assumed that The Beatles were an overnight success, but those who knew their true story realized that Beatlemania was actually a slowly spreading pandemic, beginning seven years earlier in 1957 when Paul McCartney first met his partner John Lennon. In 1960, the band traveled from Liverpool, England, to Germany where they played in various clubs in Hamburg’s red-light district. In Hamburg, they learned their craft. Back in Liverpool, their gigs were only about an hour each; in Hamburg, they played eight-hour sessions. This allowed them to build stamina and skill. The long sessions required them to learn how to woo an audience and how to hold its attention. They became more confident performers and much more accomplished musicians. Before returning to England, where they got their first recording contract, it is estimated that The Beatles performed live twelve hundred times.
In his 2008 book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell pointed to The Beatles as an example to illustrate what he called the “10,000 hours rule.” The rule, according to Gladwell, is what separates the greats from the average. Talent is important, but nothing can replace deliberate, focused practice of a craft, whether it’s playing the guitar, swinging a baseball bat, or learning to program computers (1).
Since the publication of Gladwell’s Outliers, some have questioned the validity of the 10,000-hour rule. Certainly deliberate practice is important to master any skill, but is it really a ticket to greatness, and does it guarantee success? Reviews of psychological research reveal that other factors such as genetics, life experience, natural talent, and temperament play a big part in the complex recipe that makes up individual success (2).
Recall, Retrieve, Recite, Ruminate, Reflect, Reason: What is the 10,000-hour rule, and how did Malcolm Gladwell illustrate it with The Beatles?
Challenge – Secrets To Success: Do some research on “the key to success.” What have different people said about the secret to success, and which one key factor would you identify as the most important?
1-Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.
2-Resnik, Brian. The “10,000-hour Rule” was Debunked Again. That’s a Relief. Vox 23 August 2019.