There is plenty of content all over the internet and elsewhere that talks of talent and the role it plays in achieving greatness in your chosen area; be it sport or your profession. Is it possible that one person can through the virtue of their natural ability excel in this area above those who do not have such an affinity? I would argue no, I will tell you why.
It is a commonly repeated idea that 10,000 hours of practice in any specific craft will lead to that person becoming a master in that respective area. Despite this being banded about a lot I feel that it is not properly appreciated or understood as to the true nature of this. Across the various social media platforms that exist and in the media we see the best of the best and their achievements on a daily basis. Think of the olympics or sporting fixtures of the top individuals or teams; we see a snapshot of their wider lives and training through the comparatively short time through which they actually play or compete. We see this and think, ‘Oh but they must be really talented and were always really good at doing what they do’. But, as a general rule, this is not the case. I’m not saying that some people don’t have the right genetics or the right prior skill set or innate ability to excel in their chosen sport etc. However, without the correct direction, guidance and training these things mean nothing.
If you were a naturally tall person with good athletic potential you could say that you would have a good talent for the high jump for example; but if you never trained in this discipline you would never beat the individual with years of practice behind them even if they did not start from a position that was naturally suited to the high jump.
So you can see from this example that the potential you hold really means very little if it is not harnessed and trained in order to make use of it. This is where the 10,000 hours comes in. It is also important to understand the differentiation between dedicated, purposeful practice and just putting in the minimum amount.
When we see ‘breakthrough’ athletes who have come from seemingly nowhere to sitting on par with the best, we do not see the hours and days and weeks and years of practice that have got them to where they are. The work they have put in without their potential being realised or without hitting their break is not seen by the masses and so is not fully appreciated.
10,000 hours, when broken down, is unsurprisingly a hell of a lot of work to be put in. That being said, if you desire to reach the top levels in your respective field of play/work then you have to understand just how much dedication it takes to make it onto that world stage.
Athletes spend their every waking moment dedicated to training and recovering so that they can gain that split second advantage over their opposition in competition. Looking at Crossfit as a prime example of this, many of the top athletes are training multiple times a day near to 6-7 days a week, all year round. This level of volume is not something that can be obtained on a whim and has been built up to over many years of dedicated training to allow them to maintain.
To reach your potential, you have to not only train harder but realise that you are fighting an impossible battle to achieve greatness by only doing the bare minimum. Obviously, this takes different forms and is a relative matter depending on who you are and what your starting point is. For example, it is unrealistic for someone new to fitness training to jump into a program designed for olympic athletes and not expect to get injured or exhaust themselves mentally and physically within a very short time frame. By addressing your training with dedicated and training smartly for your own goals, plus accepting that sometimes more is better, you will likely be able to realise those goals and hit your potential within a much more realistic period of time. Otherwise you could see yourself trying to hit a goal for years and years without making any discernible progress towards it.
To be the best at something it must be accepted that you will have to become obsessed with achieving it. None of the athletes at the top of their game are competing with a hope to just go with the flow and see what happens. they want to win and their training up to that point will likely have reflected just that. Young olympic hopefuls are often looking 8+ years ahead to make it to that the world-class level and unfortunately many never make it, such is the nature of being a world class athlete.
To normal people, this comes down to realising that if you want to get to a level that is well above where you are currently at; or make it to a level that is recognised nationally or higher, you have to put in more than the 1 hour a day you might spend in the gym or studying or practicing your craft. That is the hard and simple truth of the matter. Dedicate yourself to something and push until it becomes closer to reality.