The Investment of Time

Have you head of the “10,000 hour rule”?  The theory is that to excel in a thing (e.g. sports, music, technology, business, etc.) 10,000 hours need to be invested in that thing (e.g. study, experimentation, practice).  This theory was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers.  He wrote of a study by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson at Berlin’s Academy of Music saying, “The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did.  Nor could they find any ‘grinders,’ people who worked harder than anyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks.  Their research suggests that once a musician had enough ability to get into a top school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works” (Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, p. 39).  He offered up life stories of Mozart, the Beatles, Bill Joy, and Bill Gates as evidence of the 10,000 hour rule.

    This theory is not without its critics.  First, the number 10,000 is totally arbitrary.  Ericsson’s study had 10,000 as an average not a threshold.  Second, the 10,000 hour rule focuses solely on the quantity of time spent and not the quality of time.  (The Great Practice Myth, Debunking the 10,000 Rule,  Johnny Ramsey used to say, “Practice does not make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect performance.”  The quality of practice matters.

Few will deny that to excel in a thing, usually an investment of time is needed.  This is not to say that all who invest time will excel; but it is to say that time is needed to excel in most things.  This is why individual athletes and sports teams practice.  This is why performers in plays rehearse.  This is why SWAT teams train.

The exceptional have usually invested a great deal of time honing their skills.  If you see an outstanding gymnast or golfer, you are no doubt seeing someone who has invested a great deal of time.  Experts in a field (e.g. law, medicine, engineering, mechanics) have invested time.

How are we using our time?  The number of hours in a day is the same for all of us; likewise, the number of days in a week.  Are we using our time to do good?  We are the salt and light of this world (Matthew 5:13-16).  Are we using our time to become more knowledgeable in God’s word?  He wants us to grow in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).  Are we using our time to become better proclaimers and teachers of God’s Word?  We all have this responsibility (Hebrews 5:12; Acts 8:4; 1 Peter 2:9).

We cannot be experts in everything and excel in everything.  There is not enough time.  This is one of the reasons that there are specialists (physicians, veterinarians, engineers, lawyers, etc.).

However, we all should be investing our time in the work of the church and spiritual matters.  We should each seek to become more and more proficient in the use of God’s word.  We should live it.  We should strive to reach others with it.  Redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5; John 9:4).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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