University of Oxford

The Price of Being a Genius? 10,000 Hours

Recently, I was extremely humbled (and a bit embarrassed) when someone who read my books came up to me and called me a genius. ” You are truly a genius’, he said. “How are you able to write a best-selling book so effortlessly in just 30 days?” (he was referring to my latest book ‘Profit from the Panic that has topped the best-sellers list). “And how are you able to speak in front of so many people and talk non-stop for 8 hours without feeling nervous and without requiring to use any kind of notes?”

“Normal people can’t do what you do”, he said. ” You must be just a genius!”. What many people do not realize is that my “Genius” ability was not something I was born with. In fact, when I was younger, I had absolutely no natural aptitude in writing or speaking. Back in school, I was never really good at writing English essays. My usual scores would be ‘C’s and ‘D’s. If I was lucky, I would get a ‘B’ once in a while.

While talented students with the ‘gift of the gab’ were often given the chance to become emcees during school events, I was a shy kid who never dared to speak up.

So, how did I develop my ‘Genius’ in speaking and writing that has helped me become a leader in my field? The answer is through over 10,000 hours of CONSISTENT HARD WORK.

How I Developed My Genius in Writing
I first got interested in writing a the age of 15 (when I was in secondary three). At that time, I was very passionate about learning and using accelerated learning techniques and self motivation methods to improve in my studies. When I started to do well, I wanted to share this knowledge with all my friends. So, I wrote hand-written articles on study tips (on A4 paper) than I would photocopy and distribute to my friends in class. I wrote articles entitled ‘How to improve your memory’, ‘the secret of speed reading’, ‘ smart exam tips’ etc..

At the time, my writing skills were not so good so I took a long time just to put my thoughts down on paper and I revised them over 8 times until I got them right. This was a time (1989) when i did not know how to use a computer, so I had to write and re-write my articles by hand until they were good enough. Besides doing my usual school homework, I spent about 2 hours a day,everyday to write these articles.

Three years later, I revised and refined my articles and sent them to Teenage Magazine which had them published in their monthly ‘Study Smart’ column. At the age of 18, I became a part time writer, contributing motivational articles to Teenage Magazine for $150 an article. Slowly but surely, my gift in writing developed.

At the age of 20 (when I was in the Army), I got the inspiration to write an entire book on empowering students to do well in school. The book would be called ‘I Am Gifted, So Are You!’ Was it easy for me to write an entire book? To tell you the truth…I almost died in the process. I spent hours a day, late into the night (after Army training) ‘trying’ hard to write each page. I would write a sentence, delete it and re-write again. It took 4-5 excruciating hours just to write ONE PAGE!

So, how long did it take me to write my first draft of the manuscript? 3 YEARS! After I had completed the manuscript at age 23 (3 years later), I searched for a publisher to publish the book. I was rejected by over 9 of them until Oxford University Press decided to give me a chance. After the editor-in-charge read my work, she told me that my ideas were god but my writing was COMMERCIALLY UNVIABLE (which is a nice way of saying that my English sucked). She asked me to re-write the whole book. I almost fainted! It took me 3 years to write my first draft and now I have to re-write the whole thing again?

Thankfully, I didn’t give up! I took another 1 year to re-write the book, based on the advice and pointers the editor gave me. Finally, ‘I Am Gifted, So Are You!’ was published in 1998 and went on to stay on the best sellers list for 8 years. After the success of the first book, I then wrote ‘Master Your Mind, Design Your Destiny’ that was also very difficult (it took me 2 years), then I wrote ‘How to Multiply Your Child’s Intelligence’, ‘Clueless in Starting a Business’, ‘ Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires’, ‘Secrets of Millionaire Investors’ etc…. It was only AFTER I wrote 8 books that I developed my GENIUS for now writing a best-selling book in 30 days. In fact, I can type almost as fast as I can talk now.

How I Developed My Genius in Speaking
My genius in speaking also came about the same way. Many people say that I have a talent for speaking but then do not realize the hours I have put in speaking over the years to develop my abilities.

So, how did I first get the opportunity to become a public speaker? Well, for the first 8 YEARS of my speaking career, I spoke for free to churches, bookshops, schools, community centres etc… Why? Well, its because nobody would ever pay for me to speak so I could only speak for free. I started out when I was in secondary three (age 15), where I would give free motivational talks to students in holiday camps. At the age of 24, I went round speaking in bookshops three times a week to promote my newly launched book. Again, it was only after 7 years of speaking of at least 3 times a week that I developed my speaking talent!

Anyone Can Be a Genius in Something, You Just Have to Pay the Price
Many people think that talent and ‘Genius’ is something lucky people are born with. The truth is that true talent is only developed after years and years of focus and persistent hard work on a particular skill. If YOU had spent the same number of hours as me speaking for 7 years, you too will be able to speak very confidently today without using notes. If YOU has spent as much time as me writing and re-writing books and articles, you too would be a great writer today.

The Price of Being a Genius? 10,000 Hours
So, how many hours of hard work must you put into a certain skill before you become great at it? According to research published in the best-selling book, ‘ OUTLIERS- by Malcolm Gladwell’, it takes 10,000 hours to become a genius at something.

When I read the book, I indeed found it to be so true. Indeed, I did spend more than 10,000 hours on writing and speaking UNTIL I finally became great at it.

The Best in the World Put in 10,000 Hours
If you study the most successful people in the world, you will also realize that their genius only came after more than 10,000 hours of focus and hard work.

What makes Tiger Woods the greatest golfer of all time? Well, his father taught him to play golf at age 3! From the age of 5, Tiger spent at least 4-5 hours every single day hitting 800 golf balls until he could hit them perfectly. It was only after 18 years of non-stop practice (4-5 hours a day) that he became world number one at the age of 21!

What makes Warren Buffett (the world’s richest man) the greatest investor in the world? Well, he started reading financial books and began buying his first stocks at the age of 8! While his friends were out playing games and reading comics, young Warren spent hours a day reading annual reports and looking at stock charts!

How about Bill Gates? Well, many people know him for being a school droput who started a computer company called Microsoft and through sheer brilliance and ambititon, built it into the biggest computer software company in the world. What actually happened behind the scenes? How did he become a genius at computers? Well young Bill got the chance to do real time programming at eighth grade (age 14) because he attended a school that had a computer lab (a rarity at the time). From the age of 14, Gates spent an average of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week in the computer lab while all his friends were out partying and playing.

In his book, ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell, writes:
“ The closer psychologist look at the careers of the gifted, the SMALLER the role innate talent seems to play and the BIGGER the role preparation seems to play”

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson studied gifted musicians. What was concluded from the study was that they couldn’t find any natural musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of what their peers did. Nor could they find anyone who worked harder than anyone else yet did not make it to the top.

In other words:
“ Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Why Some People Never Become Successful
Most people do not have the patience and faith that their hard work will pay off. They want instant success and instant results. Once they don’t get it, they think that they lack the talent and give up. So they never become great in anything!

The Lesson
The lesson I would like to share with you is that in order for you to become successful in any field, you have develop a talent for it. To develop a talent for anything, you must have the discipline to work on it for hours and hours until you master it!

So, before you can succeed as trader, you have to first put in 10,000 hours studying stock charts.
Before you can become a best-selling author, you have to write for 10,000 hours
Before you can succeed in gold, you have to hit golf balls for 10,000 hours
Before you can succeed in sales, you must spend 10,000 hours selling in front of customers

Pay the price and you will be a genius!

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