Editor’s note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book is I Was Blind But Now I See. You can follow him@jaltucher.
Iʼm writing this white sitting in a hotel room. To my left is the Paciﬁc Ocean and all the magical San Francisco fog stuff people kept whispering to me about. About 12 ﬂoors downstairs Claudia is doing yoga in the gym.
About four feet directly behind me is a woman that is a complete stranger to me who is having an unbelievably long orgasm. Thereʼs a wall between us. Hold on a second while I take a glass and listen against the wall.
If there was no wall there then this whole thing would probably have been pretty awkward. I probably would not have been able to keep staring at the computer screen, for instance.
Sex is like driving. In polls, nine out of ten people think they are “above average”. Letʼs say for a second that “average equals median” (I donʼt want to get into basic math arguments in the comments). Clearly, then, itʼs impossible for nine out ten people to be above average.
Itʼs also like sales or negotiating or poker or being “a good judge of people”. Nine out of ten think they are above average.
Most people have overinﬂated views of their performance in a variety of areas.
Letʼs go back to Malcolm Gladwellʼs book, “Outliers” for a second. To guarantee being among the best in the world at something you pretty much need 10,000 hours of practice as per his “10,000 hour rule”. He cites the Beatles as an example. They were basically average, then they put in their 10,000 hours by playing 24 hours a day for a few years in German strip clubs and then they became the best band in history. You can argue Bobby Fischer was a fairly average chess player until he put in his 10,000 hours. Then he was the best in history. My friend Ylon made nothing in poker for ten years then suddenly made $3 million and was among the best in the world. He put in his 10,000 hours. (See, “My Year Where I Did Nothing But Play Poker”)
You donʼt have to be the best in history to be above average. But most things that are worth doing (being an entrepreneur, amassing a good amount of money as a result) have a very steep learning curve and then it ﬂattens out. So maybe 1000 hours gets you better than most people (above average) and then the next 2000-5000 hours gets you to be the best in your circle of colleagues (i.e. good enough to make a great living at it) and then from 5000-10,000 hours is the subtle refinements that are needed to be the best in the world.
They require 5000 hours precisely because they are unobvious and subtle.
But thatʼs ok. Who cares about the other 5000 hours. Itʼs the ﬁrst 2000-5000 hours that are the most important. We need to feed our families and then be able to enjoy life. Not everyone needs to be the Beatles (who, its unclear if they were ever truly happy) or Steve Jobs (who was screaming on the phone at Eric Schmidt months before his death about how much he was going to sue Google for stealing the Android operating system). (See also, “10 Unusual Things I Didn’t Know About Steve Jobs”)
Based on my own experience being an entrepreneur and talking to hundreds of other entrepreneurs, 2000-5000 hours experience is whatʼs needed to be a successful entrepreneur. Successful enough to build a product people want, get revenues, sell the business.
Itʼs nice to have the 2000-5000 hours in your passion or ﬁeld of interest and then spend the next 10,000 hours focusing on how to be happy and healthy. This is my recommendation at least.
What do you do during those 5000 hours. How do you get better at something? If you are doing any of the below then you have my permission to clock in on the 5000 hours, but I think the below have to be done with balance. You canʼt do one without the others:
Then the question is: why do I need to be great at anything. Canʼt I just get by? Sure, but then you probably wonʼt have as much fun in life as the woman with the forty ﬁve minute orgasm who is presumably sleeping blissfully just four feet from me.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/ Goodluz
James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book is I Was Blind But Now I See. You can follow him@jaltucher.