May 11th, 2011

You Can’t Do That

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”You Can’t Do That” is on the A Hard Day’s Night album, and was 100% written by Lennon.  It did not crack the Top 40, but its A side song, “Can’t Buy Me Love” did in a big way. John’s guitar for this song was a No. 1996 slimline Rickenbacker, and George played 12-string guitar for the first time on a Beatles recording.

There have been a lot of people espousing the “10,000 hours” rule to success lately, it seems.  The theory is that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you’ll be an expert at that thing.  Some would argue that The Beatles themselves show this, as their many, many concerts in Hamburg, Germany, gelled them into the group they became.  The book Outliers reportedly hits this belief over and over again.

Recently a fellow named Dan McLaughlin was inspired by that book to put the theory to the test. He got tired of his job as a commercial photographer and decided to devote 10,000 hours to golfing, to see if he could become a professional golfer.  According to that article, “The Dan Plan will take six hours a day, six days a week, for six years. He is keeping diligent records of his practice and progress.”  The article goes on to say, “People who study expertise say no one has done quite what Dan is doing right now.”

I was hit with a swirl of emotions and thoughts when I read that article:

  • “Dude is crazy.”
  • “Would that work?”
  • “I can’t believe he quit his job to do this.”
  • “That seems like a lot of work…”
  • “…but, really, six years to become an expert in something? That doesn’t seem that bad, in the grand scheme of things.”
  • “Seriously, would that really work?”

It will be interesting to see what happens with Dan. I hope someone follows up with him in six years, and I wish him well in his endeavor.

I will admit to a certain amount of jealousy. Not everyone can do what he did – up and quit to try something new. Most of us have responsibilities that require our time and our money, which normally comes from having a job. It sure got me thinking, though: what would I devote my 10,000 hours to if I had the opportunity? Something I do now but not very well? Or something completely new and different?

My first thoughts were of music. I can play a tiny bit of piano, and I’ve always been intrigued by guitar. Golf actually seems like sorta-fun, but waaaaaaaay too expensive.  And that brings up another question: would you do 10,000 hours of something deemed “useful,” or of something more hobby-like?  Now, I consider art and music and recreation useful, don’t get me wrong. I’m using the word “useful” here in the tangible sense, a sense I’d have a hard time explaining, but I hope you understand. Golfing versus carpentry, for instance.

So… Music.  Or golf. Or… what?  I don’t have any overwhelming “I must do that!” feelings about any particular thing.  Perhaps that is what makes the difference in the 10,000 hours. If someone is driven enough to put the 10,000 hours into something, it must be something that they want to do, which makes putting in the 10,000 hours a little easier.

I suspect this is something that will bounce around in my head for some time. Perhaps it’ll land on something unexpected in there.

2 Comments on “You Can’t Do That”

  1. Brian Arnold says:

    The whole 10k hours thing is intriguing to me, in part because I went back through after hearing about it and guessed at roughly how many hours I’d put into my career, and I did seem to really have something of a turning point at around the 10k hours mark, and I’d definitely consider myself an expert in my field now.

    I think the real trick is to find something that you want to do and find a way to make a living at doing it, be that music or golf or something more practical.

  2. Mandy says:

    I think I would sooner dedicate 10K hours to something recreational, like golf. A hobby is something you want to do, whereas, in most cases, a job is something you have to do. And it’s not most people who can make a job out of their hobby. I’m not saying that it’s like that for everyone; I am generally a very happy person in any occupation I find myself in. But I think when it comes to 10,000 hours, I better be darned sure I like it, and I would be more likely to find that in a hobby.

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