10,000 Hours: How Hard Work – Not Innate Talent – Will Set You Apart in Your Career

We all have something we excel at – some sort of talent that we discovered somewhere between adolescence and adulthood that sets us apart from others. For some, that talent has to do with the arts; for others, it could be math, an ability to see things differently or a fantastic memory.

Some individuals choose to base their career paths on these innate talents and abilities, thinking they’ll be able to get ahead simply because of what they’re good at. Maybe you’ve been in that place, or maybe you’ve wished you knew what your innate talents and abilities were and that you had chosen your career accordingly.

Regardless of where you stand, there’s good news. Almost anyone can stand out in their career. That’s because research has demonstrated it’s not talent that sets most professionals apart at all; it’s hard work. It comes down to the 10,000 hour rule. Never heard of it? Keep reading.

The 10,000 Hour Rule Around 40 years ago, Herbert Simon and William Chase wrote an article in the American Scientist, in which they drew a startling conclusion:

“There are no instant experts in chess—certainly no instant masters or grandmasters. There appears not to be on record any case (including Bobby Fischer) where a person reached grandmaster level with less than about a decade’s intense preoccupation with the game. We would estimate, very roughly, that a master has spent perhaps 10,000 to 50,000 hours staring at chess positions…”

This theory, debunking the idea of prodigies and natural talent putting certain individuals ahead of others, applies not only to chess, as Simon and Chase described, but also to the workforce.

Ready to rise to the next level in your career? Get ready to work hard.

Be Prepared to Put in Effort It seems like a given: if you’ve started a new job or have recommitted to a current position, you’ll need to put in effort.

However, preparing to actually put in that effort is a little different. Remember, some people do have natural talents and abilities in certain areas. This means to stand out, you’ll have to go above and beyond. This could mean working longer hours than they do, jumping into more projects than they do, or coming up with better ideas than they do.

Bottom line: To make the 10,000 hour rule work for you, you have to be prepared to put in those 10,000 hours and then some. Commit to the process from the start to see results.

Equip Yourself with the Right Tools There’s a lot to be said for hard work. But not all of that work has to take place in the office.

Look for other options to increase your expertise in a certain area. Continuing education courses, obtaining a higher degree or enrolling in another professional program all increase your odds of standing out.

By equipping yourself with the right tools, you’re putting in the hours while working toward something greater. Consider where you are and where you want to be in 5 years. Then, think about what you need to get to that point. Hard work is just as important in the office as outside of it.

Remember: Perseverance Pays Off Working hard is never easy. Working 10,000 hours toward a single goal (that’s over one continuous year with no breaks, or 250 40-hour work weeks) could seem like an unreachable goal. But perseverance matters.

Commit to the process. Commit to working harder than those around you to reach for bigger goals that will get you where you’d like to be. Then set benchmarks. As you meet them, consider yourself one step closer to the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Ten thousand hours. That’s all that could be standing between you and your ultimate career goals. Ready to get started? There’s no time like the present.

What skills will you be committing your 10,000 hours to? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us at @HeyWorkingGirl