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Mastering a Skill: The 10,000 Hours Rule

10,000 hours rule
By Anna Robb

I was at a book exchange party at a friend’s place recently and into my hands was placed the book Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Numerous plane flights later (my uninterrupted reading times) I read and learned about the 10,000 hours rule.

In this book Malcolm Gladwell basically tears through most preconceptions and myths of people’s path to success and provides many examples of how people’s successes come down to certain opportunities, cultural influences and even simply the date they were born. One of the factors of success is how many hours you work to master something and that the golden amount for mastery is 10,000 hours.

The late Kobe Bryant (and I am not happy about saying “late” just for the record) understood this rule and his incessant practice of working harder, training longer and out-studying any other player in the league in the craft of basketball made him the stuff of legends. A status that extended beyond the court and into the hearts and minds of anyone aspiring for excellence.

After reading the book, I assessed my life and wondered what I have clocked the most hours on.

There is one thing I have easily surpassed the 10k mark on; show calling. You see, the beauty of working on long term resident shows, is the simple volume of show calling you have to do on a weekly basis. Show calling trainings, show calling shows, teaching others to show call, planning show call alternatives, show calling show stops and show starts, show calling special events. Show calling for me is now like putting a pair of old boots on. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar and it feels like home when I am doing it. I guess that is what any skill feels like once you have hit that 10k mark.

Last week I spent three days teaching Stage Management at the Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. In one of my classes, we did a show calling exercise and I got the students to practice calling a short sequence. Most of them were shy and clunky but good at the exercise. I emphasized to the class that if they wanted to develop their skills at show calling or any other craft in the theatre production world that they should continue to practice and the more they did that, the better they would get. But I forgot to tell them about the 10,000 hours rule. I wish I had.

So, I thought I would put it out here on TheatreArtLife.

If you lack confidence in your career or you feel you haven’t mastered a skill, don’t worry! You may not have put in your 10,000 hours yet.

If you love what you do, dig deep, keep going and clock those hours up until running that sound board, programming those lights, managing those productions are like putting a pair of old boots on. Skills are not handed on a golden platter to the gifted, they are there for the taking for those who put in the work.

Also by Anna Robb:

Tips on Working Cross Culturally in Entertainment

Advocacy for Mental Health even if you are OK

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