In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell, also author of bestselling books Blink and The Tipping Point, makes the case that success is less about talent and more about opportunity. He argues that those who are exposed to more and greater opportunities have a greater likelihood of being successful. Makes sense, right? We are each products of our experience and if we receive rich opportunities (schooling, exposure to influential people and elements, etc), we have a greater likelihood of accomplishing goals that are above the ordinary.
I believe we are not destined towards a certain tier of accomplishment because of our childhood backgrounds, necessarily, but that we each have the potential to gain greater opportunity, by exposing ourselves to environments that are rife with possibility and opportunity.
The richer the environment, the more focused our effort, the more we may yield.
If we place ourselves in environments that are dynamic, we have the potential to gain in a dynamic way.
Gladwell also argues that mastery is largely due to logging the hours—10,000, to be precise. Again, makes sense, right?
If you log 10,000 hours, doing any sort of development training, your skills are likely going to reach a masterful level. If one does not reach mastery after 10,000 hours, one needs to choose another discipline (if, in fact, mastery was the goal).
Artists have, forever, used the technique of purposeful isolation to reach a near super-human level of skill. When one focuses very deeply, consistently putting a high degree of concentration, thought and effort into an endeavor (not succumbing to distraction, hesitation or sloth) and do so with consistent effort over time, they are likely to develop and improve quickly and in profound ways. I refer to this type of focus as a “laser point focus”.
The Hart Technique and entrepreneurial training for the arts develops individuals who have a phenomenal degree of discipline. One needs discipline, in order to log the 10,000 hours. I like to refer to this type of discipline as that of a marathon runner. The marathon runner does not have the luxury to take a significant break from their training or they lose endurance, stamina and strength. They must, more or less, be running consistently. That takes fierce discipline.
Another reason that we must be consistent in our efforts is that our techniques (or our talents and skills), will dull and rust over time, if not used. If an artist stays in constant form, their technique will be sharp and they will be able to best express themselves. If they do not stay in proper shape with their technique, when opportunity arises and they call upon their technique, they will likely be self-conscious and not be able to express themselves as well as they desire. Their form can return, but they will likely have to log considerable effort with their technique to get to the place they were before.
Here is an example: When I was young, I was very active in martial arts. One summer, I was training for a national tournament and trained, literally, all day and night–some 10 or 12 hours a day—6 days a week for the entire summer. I was, then, in the best physical shape of my life. Following the tournament, I took a break from training for three months. When I returned to the studio, I found that my endurance, flexibility, strength, speed and stamina had all suffered. When I would spar others then, I would lose to those I consistently won against, when I was in such good shape.
At Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, we provide a dynamic environment, which enables students to focus deeply, to develop discipline and to utilize their skills—constantly, so as to make significant headway towards acquiring their 10,000 hours of effort. We expose these students to the highest quality of teachers possible and place them in the market, while still in school, so that they interact with professionals, expanding their networks in the process.
This combination of influence, opportunity and student effort, yields, for many, a phenomenal return on their educational investment and increases their likelihood of success.
Students gain a sense of empowerment, first hand experience of how to create opportunities themselves, and a high degree of technique; enabling them to manifest and realize whatever impulse they feel.
Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, TITAN Teaterskole and ACPA (Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts). ACPA will open doors in August of 2010.
This piece is being republished by request. Originally published Sept. 2009