This past weekend I celebrated a milestone: my daily meditation practice reached 500 days in a row.
Maybe you saw the movie trailer I put together…
So yes, very cool – and then I started to do some thinking…exactly what does this mean?
What I mean is…
How much time has actually gone into my practice?
How close am I to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory about 10,000 hours?
For those who aren’t familiar with it, here’s a quick bit of context…
Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.
He cites The Beatles early days in Hamburg, Germany, where they were playing in clubs 8 hours each day for years:
“The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, ‘so by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'” (Wikipedia)
Others follow the rule, too: Mozart, Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, etc.
How long does it take to reach 10,000 hours?
Simple math: something you practice for 4 hours each day for 5 days each week, for 10 years.
4 x 5 x 52 x 10 = 10,400
Lots of successful people already do this: musicians is one group that immediately comes to mind. Concert pianists (most of them) achieve their success by practicing every day – that’s just part of the life. Same with professional athletes (professional anything, really) – you don’t expect to make it to the pros if you only feel like working out and practicing once or twice a week.
The old joke goes, “A guy gets into a cab in NY and asks the cabbie how to get to Carnegie Hall; the driver replies, ‘practice.'”
Ok, let’s tackle my 10K math:
At present, I’m meditating for 30 minutes in the morning on most days, so:
500 days x .5 hours/day = 250 hours
Pretty sweet! We’re done, right? Yeah, not exactly….
That formula would be perfect IF I actually did meditate for 30 minutes each day, or if on a vast majority of the days, I meditated for that long. The truth is I didn’t, and I’m not about to half-ass some math that I can make darn near more accurate!
So what’s my number of hours actually look like?
I used a combination of different methods since I committed on May 20, 2010:
- Holosync: a 22-minute audio track scientifically designed to help my brain slow down its brain waves and make my meditations deeper. Wow, that sounds like a cheesy sci-fi movie…
- Blissitations: 15- and 30-minute tracks based on the same technology as Holosync (but I added in my own affirmations!)
- Just plain silence (various lengths)
Over the last 500 days, I would say that the most common amounts of time I meditated were 10 or 15 minutes, followed by 30 minutes.
Here are the three different scenarios…
- If I shoot for the low end with 10 minutes (10/60 = .17) each day, I arrive at 83 hours of practice (500 x .17)
- 15 minutes (15/60 = .25) each day yields 125 hours (500 x .25)
- 30 minutes (as we saw above) yields 250 hours (500 x .5)
I’m going to say that for the vast majority (75%) of the 500 days, I was meditating at least 10 or 15 minutes each day (37.5% of the time each), and for the rest of the days (25%), I’ll give myself 30 minutes.
- for 375 days, I meditated for either 10 or 15 minutes (split right down the middle)
- for 125 days, I meditated for 30 minutes
So: ((.17 x .375) + (.25 x .375) + (.5 x .25)) x 500 = 138 hours
Yup, just a tad longer than James Franco was in that cave…
So, wow: 500 days of meditation and where am I with 10K hours?
About 1% of the way there!
Now this is not all bad news. I know that over the last 16 months, my life has gone through some amazing and wonderful changes due in part to my meditation practice.
With all the goodness that’s happened, I can’t even begin to imagine that I’m only 1% into this! :-)
There’s another side to this, though – do I need to reach 10,000 hours?
Seth Godin, who has got to be close to this number on a number of things, wrote this in response to Gladwell’s book:
“Here’s my take on it:
You win when you become the best in the world, however ‘best’ and ‘world’ are defined by your market. In many mature markets, it takes 10,000 hours of preparation to win because most people give up after 5,000 hours. That’s the only magic thing about 10k… it’s a hard number to reach, so most people bail.
Yo Yo Ma isn’t perfect… he’s just better than everyone else. He pushed through the Dip that others chose not to. I’m guessing that there are endeavors (like being CEO of a Fortune 500 company or partner at a big law firm) where the rewards are so huge that the number is closer to 20,000 hours or more to get through the Dip.”
If I keep going for 30 minutes each day, then I’ll get to that “magic” number around October 2065 – I’ll only be 84!!
Will I get there sooner? Possibly.
Does it matter?
Another question: do I want to become an expert at meditation? Is this something I choose to master?
While it wouldn’t hurt, I’m not convinced right now that this is my life’s work, so I’m not uber-convinced I need to up my meditation quota for the day (at least not to the four-hour mark).
Is 10K hours a guarantee to success? No way. Even Sir Paul McCartney (used as an example in the book!) said:
“…there were an awful lot of bands that were out in Hamburg who put in 10,000 hours and didn’t make it, so it’s not a cast-iron theory. I think, however, when you look at a group who has been successful… I think you always will find that amount of work in the background. But I don’t think it’s a rule that if you do that amount of work, you’re going to be as successful as the Beatles.”
How YOU can get to 500 Days or 10K Hours:
Pick something you ENJOY.
As they always tell us that the journey is more important than the destination, if I were going to do something for 500 days straight or for 10,000 hours, I would FAR more appreciate it if it were something I really, really, REALLY enjoyed!
START doing it.
This doesn’t have to be for 4 hours every day to begin – maybe you can only eek out 15 minutes, and that’s awesome! Over a week, that’s almost two hours of time you spent working on something that is important to you!
It can really be anything – writing, painting, sports, public speaking, telling jokes, making paper airplanes, programming games, meditation, yoga. Think of the skills that you admire in others – would YOU like to be as awesome at what they do as they are? Time to get to work!
BONUS #3: I heard a great piece of wisdom from Dr. Eric Maisel on his “Your Best Life in the Arts” class with the en*theos Academy.
Dr. Maisel, a leading creativity expert who has written more than 30 books, is big on the concept of Morning Creativity Practice – getting to your creative work BEFORE anything else, even if you have to wake up at 4:30 am to fit it in!
Even if you commit to doing this kind of schedule, it may take some time to take hold in your life; this is why I created the Positive Habit Challenge (and planning another one soon).
Here’s what Dr. Maisel said:
Make sure to forgive yourself when you don’t get up, and just commit to the next day.
It’s THAT simple. If you meet your commitment for today (whatever it is), awesome. If not, no worries – commit to tomorrow, and if tomorrow doesn’t happen either, then commit to the next day.
While it’s cool (to me) that I hit 500 days of meditation (and still counting), does that really mean anything in terms of the benefits I’ve received? Would my practice mean less if I had missed a couple days here and there?
Answer to both: Nope.
So, what will you commit to practicing, towards 10,000 hours?
I’d love to hear your answer along with any other comments you have below.
Until next time,
PS – Really excited about the Healthy Living: SEATTLE guide I published last week – TONS of great finds in there! Plus, now I’m working on more cities! :-)
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