I’ve met a lot of naturally talented people in this world, but only a few of them make a living at their craft. In his book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” one of my favorite business authors, Malcolm Gladwell, asks a compelling question: Why do some people succeed, living productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential?

Gladwell claims that superstars don’t arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius.

Instead, he says, “they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard.”


“Work hard” is the operative phrase. It’s common knowledge that you have to hone your craft to really succeed in it, but a little practice won’t get the job done.

It was Gladwell’s book that brought the work of Anders Ericsson to my attention.

Ericsson studied classical violinists at the Berlin Academy of Music and found that it took a regimen of several hours of rehearsal a day for 10 years to develop their abilities. By age 20, the top performers had accrued 10,000 hours of practice, while the good students had completed 8,000. What’s most interesting is that there wasn’t a single case of a violinist who had such enormous talent that she was able to cut corners on practice time.

Have you been doing your life’s work for 10,000 hours? If not, then use the beginning of this school year to renew your motivation for self-improvement. Think about how you can spend a little time each week or month getting a little better at doing what you do — a sure path to long-term career success.

– Alexandra Levit is the author of “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World” and a nationally recognized authority on workplace issues facing young employees.

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