Is 10,000 Hours What it Takes?
Is 10,000 Hours What it Takes?

Does Malcolm Gladwell's theory apply to franchising?

Sitting on yet another delayed April flight after reading my business magazines and my guilty pleasure issue of People, I decided to dig in the seatback pocket for Southwest: The Magazine. Rarely do I find these rags educational, but this time the cover story, “Will 10,000 hours of practice really make you perfect?”, intrigued me.

At 30 years old, Dan McLaughlin quit his job with the dream of becoming a pro golfer. The challenge was that he had never played golf before.

“What he wanted was to test the so-called 10,000 hour theory – posited by academics and popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in the best seller ‘Outliners’ – the idea that 10,000 hours is the amount of time it takes to become an expert, truly an expert, at anything,” the article stated.

The article itself is intriguing, and you can click here if you are interested in reading the piece. For the purpose of my column, I wonder how much time it takes someone to become an expert in franchising. Is it 10,000 hours?

When I was a sophomore in high school, I began my journey in journalism. I earned a pseudo (not exactly real since I was 16 and only worked a few Chicago Bears games) internship with the Chicago Tribune. For argument’s sake, between my sophomore and senior years in high school, when I worked as a sports writer at the school newspaper, I may have spent 15 hours per week on my craft. So, over three years (156 weeks), I spent 2,340 hours working on journalism and writing.

Four more years of working on my craft at an average of 30 hours per week – as a sports writer for a Des Moines Register-owned community newspaper group, four online publications, internships at Details, Rolling Stone and covering the Cubs/Sox for a local Chicago newspaper, as well as being a sports writer/editor and then editor-in-chief for Drake University’s student newspaper and various other projects - would equal an additional 208 weeks and 6,240 hours.

After graduation, I worked for a Chicago daily, the Northwest Herald, for 18 months while starting a music magazine outside of work for an average of 80 hours working on craft per week, which would equal 5,760 hours. So, when I decided to jump to the dark side at a PR firm, I was officially an expert in journalism. Perhaps this is why I understood PR so easily.

Now, after seven years of approximately 60 hours per week at No Limit Agency, I am at 21,840 hours of agency time, or 910 days of my life at work over the last seven years. Therefore, by the logic of Malcolm Gladwell and his supporters, I am an expert.

But enough about me. The question is: Is 10,000 hours really what it takes? It makes sense. In order to be an expert, you have to be ingrained in the category and focused on every aspect of it.

With golf, I am not sure 10,000 hours would help my game. In fact, it could make it worse. And I have absolutely played basketball for more than 10,000 hours, but my shot is still not consistent.

Still, it’ s an interesting philosophy, and one those working in the franchising world should keep in mind. The experience that comes from time cannot be replaced.