Marketing Idea No. 201 – The Magic Number “10,000”

Why are so many successful New York lawyers have the same biography: Jewish, born in the 1930s in Bronx / Brooklyn, had immigrant parents who worked in garments?

In finding answer to such seemingly innocuous yet piercing question, Malcolm Gladwell, laid out the age old truth about success. According to him, no one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone.

But one of the most fascinating part of this theory is the 10,000 hour rule.

Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using the source of The Beatles’ musical talents and Gates’ computer savvy as examples. The Beatles performed live in Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, “so by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'”Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it. Gladwell interviews Gates, who says that unique access to a computer at a time when they were not commonplace helped him succeed. Without that access, Gladwell states that Gates would still be “a highly intelligent, driven, charming person and a successful professional”, but that he might not be worth US$50 billion. Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.


  1. Tearkay 12 years ago

    “Outliers” was a great read. But it oversimplifies stuff. There are a lot more complex variables at work behind success and not just the time spent on doing something.

  2. Abdul Mumit 12 years ago

    IMHO, Gladwell indicated the 10,000 hour rule to be a ‘necessary’ but not ‘sufficient’ condition. You are exactly stating that.

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