Screw You Malcolm Gladwell, I Bet I Could Do It in Just 9,000 Hours: A Review of Outliers

Gus HarringtonSince its publication in 2008, Outliers has often been cited as a revelatory look at what makes prominent individuals so successful. In it, author Malcolm Gladwell posits that it takes around 10,000 hours of work on a specific skill set to truly become an expert at it. To which I say: Bullshit, I’ll do it in 9,000.


Who do you think you are, Malcolm Gladwell, trying to tell me how much time I need to set aside in order to become successful at something? Maybe the plebs out there need 10,000 hours of mindless repetition, learning, and personal growth to excel in a field, but not me. I’m a genius. I doubt I’ll even need 90% of that.

You think I’m joking? Name something. I guarantee I’ll become a master at it within a paltry 9,000 hours. Just throw something at me here, Gladwell. I can take it. Want me to become a world class chef? Pff, I bet I’ll be cooking for the Pope inside of 8,500 hours. Champion golfer? 3,000 hours, no sweat. Heart surgeon? Once I get the hang of where the scalpel goes I can’t possibly see it taking any more than 7,000 hours.

Honestly, I can’t imagine this being a challenge for anyone.

Let’s say you wanted to become a seven-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming. What would that take, maybe 2,800 hours tops? How hard could it be? I mean, the human body is already largely buoyant. Well, if it was up to Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour scheme you’d be floundering around in that cold ass water for a grand total of one year and fifty-one days nonstop. Does that sound like the path to success? I don’t think so either.

Let’s be frank here: I am a brilliant writer. But my skill does not come from petty things like ambition, hard work, or prominent connections. I am good at what I do because of pure God-given talent. I was born to do what I do, and no amount of passion, focus, or worldly experience can enhance that.

You know how long it took to write this review? Barely even 4,000 hours. And since you’re currently reading it you can undoubtedly tell that it is flawless. I defy you to do better, Malcolm Gladwell, even with your extra 6,000 hours.

The problem at the heart of Gladwell’s assertion is that putting a number on human ability is such an inherently ridiculous notion. How much time and effort a person has put into something has no bearing on whether they find success.

The way I know that Gladwell’s model is ridiculous is because I’ve seen its unreliability firsthand. There are plenty of activities that I have put 10,000 hours into, and I have yet to become a flawless master of them. I guarantee that I’ve spent well over 10,000 hours of my life just walking. How come I occasionally trip and fall, Gladwell? Shouldn’t I be beyond such mistakes? Sleeping? I’ve done it for one third of my life, so why is it that I still toss and turn and wake up screaming every other night?

Working on something for 10,000 hours is absolutely no guarantee that the world will recognize your genius. Do you know how many hours I’ve spent writing great fiction? 24,285. Yeah, I counted. And not a single piece has been published by the imbeciles who helm the industry. So, Malcolm Gladwell, either you’re saying that I’ve spent most of my life desperately clutching at a skill I will never excel at, or it’s time to admit some flaws in your system. Take a good hard look at the issue, Gladwell. I’ll give you a couple thousand hours to think it through.

About Gus Harrington (16 Articles)
Gus quickly became one of today's leading literary critics, despite not yet having any of his own works published. Gus joined The Double Thumb so that he could “offer an intelligent alternative to the mainstream critic community.” Gus is married to his lovely wife Tabitha Harrington. They live in a beautiful beachfront house in La Jolla, California despite both of them having severe sand allergies. Six months out of the year, Gus tours across the country signing other people's books. Keep an eye out for him in your hometown, and be sure to buy an autograph!

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