January 22, 2013

How to go from student to master of your domain


George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon of the Beatles, circa 1960.

Want to be a social media pro? Learn by doing

Target audience: Businesses, brands, marketing professionals, geeks, general public.

Chris AbrahamWhile Malcolm Gladwell suggested in his book Outliers: The Story of Success that you need to engage in a challenging 10,000 hours of experience and practice before becoming a master, don’t let that theory overwhelm you. The belief that you need to accrue all 10,000 hours of practice and experience before you sell yourself as a social media maven isn’t necessarily accurate.

All you need to do is know more than the person who hires you to become a professional. It is in taking the risk upon yourself to fake it till you make it, to make mistakes while you’re making magic, and in learning and knowing more so that you can win clients who are smarter and more sophisticated.

If people are asking you for help with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, reddit, blogging, Tumblr, WordPress, or anything else, you’re ready to charge people for your time, expertise, insight, and creativity. Remember, 10,000 hours signifies mastery of the sort that is considered world-class — do you need to be the best in order to make a living?

No, you don’t.

You also don’t need to know the answer to everything in order to be ready to go pro. Your friends are resources as is the Internet and your larger social network. With experience comes an innate body of knowledge. But don’t be fooled. Medical doctors and lawyers don’t know the answer to everything either but they puzzle it out.

You can, too.

While 10,000 hours of increasingly challenging study of the viola da gamba might get you to Carnegie Hall, is your goal transcendent mastery or are you happy to play well enough that you can make a living being a musician?

Gain mastery through practice

outliers

Additionally, I believe that people are a little misinformed about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. It’s not like scuba diving or flying an aircraft: the 10,000 hours of mastery are not accumulated like number of dives or flight time. That 10k is not billable hours you burn through by punching time cards.

If you are pursuing mastery (of social media, marketing, PR, light aircraft, diving, or the viola), then you need to constantly step it up. To become a master, you need to not only put in the time — of course, there are no shortcuts, it’ll still take you all of those 600,000 minutes — but you need to constantly challenge yourself, take risks, try something new, innovate, interpret, create, expand, and move well out of your comfort zone.

If you haven’t read Outliers, Gladwell brings up the Beatles. They accrued their 10,000 hours by performing live in Hamburg, Germany, over 1,200 times. Not by practicing part time but by really getting out there are working. They were professional musicians while they became masters.

When artists and businessmen annoyingly talk about how important their suffering, depression, mental illness, and failure were to their ultimate success, I believe that some of the most important hours of those 10,000 hours are the hours when you really want to break that Stradivarius fiddle over the music stand but don’t. Or do, but persevere. I believe that those manic all-nighters when you’re swept away by the Muse or just focused on solving an impossible riddle are essential to the craft. However, that’s not instead of practicing 8-hours-a-day, it’s in addition.

So, go out there: You have 10,000 hours to pursue something right now — and not for free. Please do not let preordained notions of mastery get in the way of being better than the people around you. Temember, just because you think something’s easy or simple doesn’t mean that it is. It may only be easy for you. Other people either don’t care enough to do the work like you have, don’t have your gift and natural affinity, or they’re just too dim.

Good luck and if you’re going to aspire to mastery, take advice from John, Paul, George, and Ringo: Do it for money.

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Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

  • mingosfear

    Thank you for this article! I’m literally about to send off a resume for a social media/marketing position and questioning myself if I really have enough experience.