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Got 10,000 Hours to Become an Expert?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, claims that to be an expert in any field, you will need at least 10,000 hours of practice doing what it is that you want to do. He describes Bill Gates as someone who began computer programming in elementary school so he had his 10,000 hours in when he wrote DOS and licensed it to IBM.

So are you thinking of becoming a famous writer? Let’s say you write about 4 hours per day. We’ll let you take time off on the weekends to do the many normal things of life that we all must do. Those 4 hours per day, times 5 days per week, times 50 weeks per year (giving you just 2 weeks off for vacation, illness or normal laziness) is 1,000 hours of writing per year.

Yeah, you might say to yourself, I only need 10 years of practice to become a famous writer. So maybe it’s time for me to get started? But, unlike the writers working four hours per day, my own writing is more sporadic and only rarely, if ever, does it reach the four-hour mark in any given day. I have no illusions of becoming a famous writer, but I’d like to become a good one.

Ariel Gore, author of How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, says it doesn’t work to just put time for writing on your to-do list. There are too many other things on the list that must be done first. This is unfortunately true at PVE, where there are other priorities—checking my email, going to get the mail and then perusing all the ads I’ve received, reading the paper, watching the news or whatever happens to be on TV.

And then there’s exercise class, yoga, tai chi, swimming, bocce—both participating and cheering others on—walking the dog, checking the PVE TV channel for the dinner menu and oh, the Book Discussion Group. And that doesn’t include special events like the Newcomers’ Welcome, Town Hall meetings, the after-golf Moaners and Groaners dinner and . . . well, you get the idea.

Many PVE residents are already true experts. Some are even famous though you’d never know it by their humble manner. Can you imagine piloting or navigating airplanes for 6,000 hours or more as they have? Or having your own business, running a large company, or participating in other significant professions including world-class doctors, scientists, professors and engineers?

How about the hours needed to take care of children? For many moms, 10,000 hours is a drop in the bucket for even one kid. You do not need to be an expert to write and participate here at PVE. An interest in listening to others or just trying your hand at it is enough. Everyone has stories that only they can tell, and when others comment on how much they enjoyed your article on the PVE blog, you’ll feel famous.