I recently taught a seminar to international students, and one of the students who approached me afterwards was a native Indian, whose parents moved the family to England when he was a child. Onkar thanked me for the seminar, and we carried a short casual conversation.

It was near lunch time, so he and I decided to walk together to the cafeteria. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to learn more about each other.

10,000 Hours for Mastery

I asked Onkar about his family’s move to London, and we soon started talking about why he was in the United States. He mentioned that he was a soccer athlete, and a small university in Connecticut recruited him to play after he completed his high school studies.

This was a win-win situation for him and the university. He was able to play the sport he loved, and the university benefitted by having a star athlete on the soccer team. In fact, Onkar had great potential, even receiving tryouts with England’s Premier League.

I asked Onkar if he thought USA soccer would someday catch up to the level seen in Europe, and he responded …

In England, all we do is play soccer, all year. The fact that you guys have so many sports, like American football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, means kids can do other stuff. Back home, 99% of us only want to play soccer! We are devastated when we don’t make the team because there is little else we want to do.”

He then reminded me of something I had forgotten: “Remember … it takes 10,000 hours for mastery.”

Why it Matters

To get up to speed on this theory, I pulled an article from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) and learned that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it in his book Outliers. In the HBR article, A Fast Track to 10,000 Hours of Practice (Wilson, 2011), the initial research focused on fine-motor skills like playing the piano.

However, Wilson (2011) reports that current studies indicate the 10,000-hour benchmark also applies to knowledge work, which is vital to creating and leading top-notch companies.

My Take

It’s interesting how learning takes place. I was here to teach a seminar to international students, and yet the Lord gave me the patience and humility to be receptive to what others can teach me.

There was a time in my life when I would quickly extricate myself from these conversations. On this day, however, instead of walking to lunch with other faculty members, I welcomed the opportunity to share time with one of my students.

Over the years, I have completed several degrees and many professional certifications. I suppose I have met the 10,000 hours required to claim mastery over a subject area.

However, many years of formal education and related professional accomplishments do NOT necessarily mean I am an educated person.

I think I would be a better and happier person if I could pursue 10,000 hours of listening to the life stories of others, and I’m certain Onkar was not an accidental occurrence.

This was God, yet again, sending me a friendly reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty of life.