The 10,000 hrs are real

When I was learning to play tennis as a teenager, I remember how badly I wanted to learn how to hit the ball with topspin (when you put spin over the top of the ball so you can hit it harder and still land in-bounds). Every time I hit the ball it was with this exaggerated motion, or I would mime swing in my bedroom trying to look like players on TV. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the ball would go straight into the net or launch into the air. It felt like I’d never do it. Then one day sometime later, I remember playing with a friend and hitting the ball back-and-forth, topspin after topspin, like we actually knew what we were doing, and thinking, “Holy shit! I actually know how to play tennis!”

I recently had that same feeling but as a product manager. It was a regular day at work, nothing special going on, but everything was running smoothly, I had confidence in my approach, and had principles and processes in place. I knew what I was doing!

Back in the tennis days, Malcolm Gladwell hadn’t coined the 10,000 hour rule and I wasn’t tracking how many hours I played tennis anyway. But today, when I had that feeling around product management, I knew exactly how many hours I’d been working.

I actually track all the time I spend working on Revere and have from the start. So I ran the numbers for how much time I've spent "product managing" professionally (Revere plus my day jobs), and it came out to almost exactly 10,000 hours. The rule always seemed plausible but this made me a believer.

What a great way to think about a craft. I love the idea that you can go from complete novice to proficient just by putting in the time. Whatever you're into, just put in hour after hour, not worrying about how crap you are for most of them, and you'll eventually be great. That's it, nothing else to think about, just one hour at a time and don’t stop until you’re good.

Becoming a PMMark Rabo