I have a long way to go before this question could possibly apply to me, but I was thinking about whether the 10,000 hours rule – the one that Malcolm Gladwell refers to in his writing – applies to creating successful startups. The rule says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice, with a focus on improvement, to master a specific skill. 

Does the 10,000 hours theory apply to mastery of creating successful startups?
The argument for “No”
This camp would argue that it’s too difficult to define mastery for this particular skill because:</p>

  • Being a founder of a startup requires not one skill that can be mastered, but rather a combination of many different skills  skills that you do not necessarily need to master to be at the top of your field.
  • Wildly successful outcomes can happen without mastery and can happen much sooner than the elapsing of 10,000 hours.

The “No” camp would also argue that it is too difficult to measure ‘hours of practice’. Do the hours get ‘logged’ only while founders are actually doing things related to their companies? That would leave out the hours that they spend thinking about their startup outside the office. Since they are always thinking about their startup, do all of their waking hours get logged toward the 10,000-hour tally? For that matter, what if they even dream about their startup in their sleep – do those get logged? etc.

The argument for “Yes”

This camp would argue that a person’s ability to juggle all of the different startup tasks in an optimal way is indeed a skill, and one that can eventually be mastered after hours of practice. Just as master investors have honed their skills at asset allocation, master startup founders have honed their skills at resource allocation.

To counter another one of the arguments above, just because someone had a quick, successful outcome does not mean they have mastered the skill. </p>

What I think

My thinking on this (not-even-necessarily-existent) debate is: I guess it doesn’t really matter whether the 10,000 hours rule applies here or not. Just keep doing, shipping, learning, learning from failures, and doing again. Eventually your track record will be much more telling than a theory that says whether you’re a master or not. </p>