Are you familiar with the idea of Ten Thousand Hours as discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, published in 2008 by Little, Brown and Company? The gist is that one must practice or be intensely involved with an activity for ten thousand hours in order to be extraordinarily successful. He gives compelling examples in Bill Gates (computer programming) and The Beatles (musical composition and performance), among others. The book is interesting and pretty convincing in its exploration of The Story of Success, as its subtitle states, but it is a bit disturbing to me.
Normally, I wouldn’t take it personally but, as I have mentioned, I am a couple of hundred hours into a relationship with clay. I have improved, certainly, but neither extraordinary nor successful are words I would apply to my production of clay objects. Ten thousand hours is a long time. Think of a forty-hour workweek for five years. And it’s not just putting in the time. The activity must be directed and intentional. In the examples in the book, these people are driven to the exclusion of many other parts of a normal life. I’m not sure I’m ready for this.
Add to this scenario the fact that I am not young anymore, I’m not sure I’m even middle-aged anymore, and I’m thinking that I don’t have time to become really successful even if I wanted to commit to clay. Now this is where I start making deals. Maybe some of the dexterity that I have developed in coiling baskets would lower the necessary hour count. And I did take that one ceramics class in college. Surely that would bring it down by a hundred or so. And do I really need to understand glaze formulas and firing temperatures if I have someone else to do that for me? Surely we can cut it down even more for related experiences, enthusiasm and good behavior. Or maybe not. But I’m not going to let a little thing like scientific investigation stop me. It’s just too much fun.
All I can say is, if you are under 20 years of age, get started on that passion to reach extraordinary success. Like getting to Carnegie Hall, it takes practice, practice, practice.