10,000 Hours

42nd_002sI have just finished reading Malcolmm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”. It’s another great and mind opening book from this extremely talented and insightful writer. One of the things that struck a chord with me was the section on how The Beatles and Bill Gates got to be the so called ‘Masters” of their genre, music and programming respectively. Basically it came down to practice. Bill Gates was able to get access to a computer as a teenager in 1968. A time when even most University Professors in programming did not have regular access to computers. Gates was able to practice programing until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Same with the Beatles. They were sent to by their manager to  Germany when they were an unknown band and had to perform for 8 to 10 hours a night, seven nights a week for months. 

From these examples Malcolm Gladwell guides us through some studies that basically demonstrates that for any person to achieve mastery in any field there is a magic number of hours that one needs to have practiced at one’s avocation in order to achieve mastery and that number is 10,000. To attain this number of hours takes an average of 10 years. So Bill Gates was able to achieve 10,000 hours of practice well before almost anybody else in the programming field when the computer desktop revolution hit. The Beatles had well over 10,000 hours of performance when they first hit it big in the US in 1962.

I thought of this as I was walking around looking and photographing during my lunch hour and I remembered what a photographer once told me about achieving mastery in my chosen art; he said you have to have shoot 10,000 rolls of film! I did not take this literally back then. I took it to mean that you had to shoot a lot of film and all that it entails; looking, reacting, editing, reading your images and creating sequences. Basically that “one roll a day” school of photography.  But what he also was getting at was that you had to have a certain amount of experience before you could truly say something, truly have a vision that was yours alone. Your photographs are basically 2 dimensional representations of your self and it takes a certain amount of time to even begin to understand who you are and your place in the world. I am still finding out and I am in middle age! 

One other thing this brought to mind was the fact of all the great photographs in the history of the medium were all made by photographers when they were in their forties and fifties! I believe Ansel Adams was forty nine when he made his most famous image, Moonrise. So I will keep on taking pictures whenever I can and add to my experience and to add to my 10,000 hours!


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