We’ve all heard about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from his famous book “Outliers”.
Well, as an independent singer-songwriter, I can tell you that in my experience, 10,000 hours is just the tip of the iceberg.
I died laughing the other day when I was listening to an entrepreneurship podcast and the woman being interviewed sheepishly claimed it took her *nearly 18 months* to get her business up and running and profitable.
It made me think of how many musicians and creative entrepreneurs I know who’ve been at it for YEARS. Some of us nearly 30 years! I wrote my first song when I was seven years old!!
I did the math.
30 years x [thinking or working on your craft approx 8 hours/day] = 85,440 hours!
And some of my colleagues still feel perpetually in “emerging artist” mode - struggling, frustrated, broke. After 30 years in the game, they are still trying to get momentum in their careers. But it’s certainly not for lack of talent or effort.
I’ve had successes and failures over the years, but more than anything I’ve had to learn to keep coming back and recommitting to my path through all its inherent challenges.
The truth is some businesses are fairly simple and cookie-cutter - you make a product and sell it. Or you have a service people need and they hire you. But sometimes when your work is your art, or your personal brand, it takes much longer to decipher who you are, what you’re trying to say, and who you’re trying to say it to. You simply have to dig a LOT deeper to find those answers.
And that is OK!
The truth is it can take a lifetime to figure this stuff out. And honestly, it takes more than just time and practice.
In fact, I could probably attribute it to a few specific things:
- Years of mindful practice and performance in your craft.
- Iterations (the amount of times you actually release a project into the world and learn from the experience)
- A growth mindset (meaning you’re willing to learn from your mistakes)
- Creating a strong business model (supply/demand, etc.)
So maybe I’m dumb (though I don’t think so).
And maybe I love to learn things the hard way (I’ve definitely had my share of trial and error!).
Or maybe true mastery of anything actually takes a lifetime.
Realizing all this reinforces my own decision to double down on songwriting. Because it’s my highest ideal and even though I’ve had some successes along the way, I feel my best work is yet to come. And all I want to do is get to it!
So if you’re a musician or a creative entrepreneur and you’re not hitting your creative, financial, or social jackpot after 18 months don’t sweat it! 10,000 hours is just the base line. It may take you thousands more to find your way. But thankfully, it’s about the journey, not the destination. 🙂