Does Practice Make Perfect?

JENNY DELL looks at what it takes to achieve perfection…

10000 hours bill gates degree sex

What is the key to success? With exams sadly looming closer, it’s a question we could probably use the answer to.

Success seems to be a mash up of natural skill, helpful environmental factors, and a great deal of luck. Not much there you can control. But apparently it’s all a lot more simple than that.

According to American writer Malcolm Gladwell, all it takes to become an expert in a certain field is 10 000 hours of practice. Simples.

In his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success, Blackwell focuses on some of the most successful people of the twentieth century, and claims that they all owe their success to a simple 10 000 hours of work.

The Beatles performed 12 000 times in Hamburg between their formation in 1960 and 1964, racking up over 10 000 hours of playing time, and returned to England to become arguably the most famous English band ever.

Bill Gates, now so rich that even if you could save $100 000 per day it would still take you over 1000 years to be as wealthy, spent 10 000 hours programming a high school computer age 13 in 1968. If it really was the key to his $50billion fortune, then 10 000 hours at $5million per hour doesn’t seem such a bad deal to me.

So what do Durham students want to become experts in?

Let’s assume that everyone’s first answer was our studies. Of course.

On a three year course, 10 000 hour works out at about 64 hours a week. There are 168 hours in a week. Seems feasible.

However, second years, even if you sharpen up your act for the next twelve months you’re going to need to source an extra four and half hours per day to make up for your negligence until now. Freshers, don’t think you’re getting away lightly either as to rack up your 10 000 hours even over two years, you’re going to need to start thirteen hour library shifts asap.

Fourth years: our hope rests in you. Six hours a day for four years will get you into the 10 000 hour elite.

The solution to all this number crunching is clear: shamelessly pursue those on four year courses, schedule an hour in their diaries and you’re in line for a chunk of at least a few mill, potentially billions. Ideal.

And then moving on to the extra curricular (it is The One…)

This is a relatively simple calculation: 10 000 hours amounts to three hours a day for ten years.

Therefore, if anyone approaches you in Lloyds or Klute claiming to be a sexpert, they are lying, or certainly suffering from a severe case of addiction.

For the aspirational among us, practise for an hour a day (for purposes of feasibility and kindness we’ll include all foreplay) and we’re talking almost 28 years.

Moral of this tale: there is something to look beyond to in your forties. I wonder if (56 year old billionaire) Bill Gates is single…