Malcom Gladwell in his book, Outliers, wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.
Gladwell used well-known figures as his examples like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Beatles and J. Robert Oppenheimer, to name a few. However, most of us are not the Gates and popular musicians of the world.
Which got me thinking.
I wonder if 10,000 hours is true for airline pilots, surgeons, and clergy.
After all, these types are responsible for people’s lives, much more so than the examples in Gladwell’s book.
I wonder if pilots, surgeons and clergy realize how serious their jobs are.
Probably not, especially if they’re young.
Years ago I needed a surgeon and the man was pompous and verbose. He knew he was good. He was a young guru with magical hands.
Then I needed him again ten years later. I barely recognized him. He was overweight, still talkative, but this time he was humble. He told me he had slaved at the altar of success only to bring his marriage to the brink of divorce, that he had lost more patients than saved them, and that there was more to life than the surgery room.
I wonder if that’s true for pilots. After all, a jet is a jet, the controls are the same, and the view out the cockpit window at 30,000 feet pretty much looks the same everywhere. A flight attendant friend tells me that pilots are usually found at the hotel bar at the end of a shift. Most are divorced or living with unhappy wives. That’s scary.
And clergy? Just think of the problems they hear – the agonies, the failures, and the disappointments of their parishioners. The lapses in church attendance. The struggles with their own marriages and children. The need to preach relevant messages every week to congregations that don’t listen anyway.
Ten thousand hours for mastery? Is that all? I say you need a lifetime to be an expert in being human.
Calvin says, “Well, I’ve mastered being a beagle except you haven’t noticed lately.”