You need 10 years to reach the top of your vocation


Most people who quit employment or go straight into business from college have many romantic notions about owning a business - what they will earn, the freedom they will have, and the status they will acquire in the society.

However, sooner rather than later majority of them come to the realisation that being a successful business owner is a not a walk in the park.

The market is full of cons who masquerade as business people and self-proclaimed business advisors who give false impression that going the entrepreneurial way is stress-free.

Take the example of people who work in low paying jobs, operate a side hustle that seems to enable them live large. They get the applause and admiration of many who don’t know they live a fraudulent life.

Think about National Youth Service fraud where some people including youngsters, who should be in pampers in terms of entrepreneurial maturity, allegedly earned millions of shillings without supplying anything. They definitely may have inspired many people to consider going into business by their lifestyle and perceived success. But certainly that is not business.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success expounds the factors that contribute to high levels of success in all areas of life. He uses what he calls a 10,000-hour rule to explain the ‘magic’ of success.

The 10,000-hour rule simply states that one needs at least 10,000 hours to gain mastery in any field. This resonates very well with another study conducted by John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Professor Hayes examined the role of effort, practice, and knowledge in top performers. He based his study on thousands of musical pieces produced between 1685 to 1900, with the chief objective of establishing how long it takes, after one becomes interested in music, to become world class champion.

He focused his study on 500 pieces conceded to be the masterpieces, frequently played to the world and studied 76 composers who created them.

Quite conspicuously, he noted that almost all the masterpieces were written after 10 years of the composer’s career. Out of 500 there were only three exceptions, which were written in years eight and nine.

The discovery that not a single person produced incredible work without putting in a decade of practice first, not even genius like Mozart, is an insightful breakthrough in the study success in practically all areas of life.

Prof Hayes called this period, 10 years of silence. It is a tough period which is manifested by hard work, hardly any gain and little recognition.

Both 10,000-hour rule and 10 years of silence figuratively underscore the element of time in success. Truly success in business, as in other areas of life is not an overnight affair.

Essentially it takes time to build a brand and gain mastery of any business you start. Exceptions are rare and unreliable.