October 18, 2018
The conventional wisdom is that you need to devote 10,000 hours to something to become an expert. To put this in context, 10,000 hours is roughly 5 years of working full time. Since we have to earn a living, a very conservative estimate for what we can really get in in a year is something like 500 hours. That means we have to put in 20 years to become an expert at something! And that seems like a daunting enough reason not to make a career change.
But I believe something unconventional, and that is that most jobs aren’t that hard and/or that most people aren’t actually that good at their jobs.
Being a lawyer is something I know about personally, and I believe that anyone of reasonable intelligence could perform all of the tasks a lawyer performs on a daily basis without even going to law school. If you just worked at a law firm for a year under the tutelage of someone who knew what they were doing, you would know how to be a lawyer at the end of it.
I think the same is true of most professions. Something like a year of working full time with someone who knows what they’re doing will make you indistinguishable from an expert to the untrained eye. And that’s who you’re trying to convince, is the untrained eye. Most consumers have no idea what most professionals do, all they care is that their work gets done well enough that it won’t cause them problems. Obviously the bar is higher for lawyers, or say engineers who are building bridges, than for graphic designers. A badly designed bridge can kill people, so it makes sense to not just let anyone who walks through the door design bridges.
But in graphic design, a badly designed logo is just that, a badly designed logo. It looks ugly, and your client will not be happy with you. If you have an eye for design, however, after a few dozen practice designs, you should be able to tell whether you’re capable of creating something professional looking. There’s no cost except your time to putting yourself out there. You can even offer to do some designs for free! (Though not too many – you’re a person with valuable time and never forget it!)
There are lot of professions like this, especially in the age of the internet, where you can learn the basics quickly and put yourself out there and see what doing the work feels like.
There’s a quote from Bill Gates where he says something like “People overestimate what they can accomplish in 1 year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10.”
I think with hours of practice, it’s similar. 10,000 hours is a ridiculous amount of hours, and anyone who spends that much time really focusing on something will get incredibly good at it, like world class in for most fields (as long as it’s not something that requires a tremendous amount of physical ability, like basketball). But people think 10,000 hours is the minimum to be good at something. People don’t accurately appraise how far 10,000 hours will get you, and so they don’t start on the project.
On the flip side, I think you can get reasonably good at a lot of things with relatively few hours. Take something like making websites. When Kyrsten and I first started, we knew nothing about making websites, but by the time we’d put together just a few WordPress sites (which involved no actual programming, just installing things and drag and drop design), we felt confident enough to drastically raise our prices. We probably didn’t have much more than 100 hours of experience between us and already we were good enough to make it a full time business. I think we both had good taste to begin with, but that’s a pretty low bar.
Think about that. Just 100 hours of work was enough to make us pass as professionals in web design, which is generally thought of as a fairly technical field. That is not a giant time commitment. Most people spend at least that much time watching TV over the course of a month. If you devoted all that time to trying out professions that need 100 hours to get up to speed, you could get through a dozen in a year! And you would have only given up TV time, which is already a total loss anyway 😉
Who knows what you might stumble across over in 1200 hours of getting decent at different things that people think are difficult!
We're sharing what we've learned in the course of doing some unconventional things in the hope that we can help others do better and get more out of life.