what the 10,000 hours rule really means: taking lessons in stand up comedy from a nerdy Swedish guy instead of Malcolm Gladwell

My roommate Matt, like me, is a stand up comic. So, when one of us decides to take a night off, the other always tries to inspire some action: “Why don’t we go out and do some open mics?! You need to write more!” Matt always boils it down to: “You’ve gotta get your 10,000 hours, man!” I’ve probably heard Matt say that phrase 10,000 times. He’s really good at it. 

I was listening to a rebroadcast of a Freakonomics Radio episode called “How To Be Great At Just About Anything,” when the guy who came up with the 10,000 hour rule started explaining what it’s all about. And it got me thinking. What does 10,000 hours really mean? In the stand up community, the idea of “10,000 hours” is thrown around like crazy, but does anybody ACTUALLY know what it means? Yeah, 10,000 hours is a number.. .but do you magically become Louis C.K. after you’ve been on stage for that much time? Does it only matter how much time you’re on stage, or does writing count, too? Are you meant to keep track of how many hours you’re doing? Or is it just a big number to use for inspiration? Is it even physically possible?

When we boil it all down, “10,000 hours” really amounts to a buzz word that’s lost a lot of it’s meaning. So this is an attempt to get some real, concrete answers about what it means to get your 10,000 hours in comedy. Starting here:

You ask anybody who came up with the 10,000 hours rule and they’ll say “Malcolm Gladwell.” But they’re dead wrong. Which is why I’d rather take a lesson in stand up comedy from a nerdy Swedish guy named Anders Ericsson. Wait.. .who?

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