Finding Niche: Where to Invest Your 10,000 Hours of Practice

I just finished reading the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a well-written and thought-provoking book on the topic of success. Among many interesting ideas in the book, there is one I’d like discuss here and that is the 10,000-Hour Rule.

The rule says that you need approximately 10,000 hours of practice to become a world-class expert in a field. Outliers shows that the rule applies even to geniuses like Mozart and Bill Gates. There is no other way: if you want to be a world-class expert in your field, you must do your 10,000 hours of practice.

When I was thinking about it, a question came into my mind:

Where should I invest my 10,000 hours of practice?

This question is important because 10,000 hours is a lot of time. If you consistently practice 4 hours a day for 6 days a week, you will still need 8 years to get 10,000 hours. So answering this question is essential. If you need to invest such a huge amount of time, you’d better do it right. You’d better find your niche.

To find your niche, I find the three questions below helpful. Answer them and you will have an idea of where you should go. Here they are:

1. Where have you invested your time?

One way to know where to invest your time is simply to look at where you have invested your time. For example, in the last few years you might have learned how to play music for one or two hours a day. Or you might have blogged about a certain topic. Or you might have spent a lot of time on gardening.

Those are good signs of where you should invest your 10,000 hours. You already invest part of that 10,000 hours so you only need to invest the rest. The difference is now you do it consciously and deliberately. You will be more effective that way.

2. What are your passions?

Again, 10,000 hours is a huge amount of time. It’s difficult to find the motivation to spend that much time on one thing. In fact, that’s one reason why 10,000 hours is a magic number to become a world-class expert: almost everyone else fails before reaching that point. Only a few people can reach the 10,000 hours mark and that’s why they become world class.

To help you reach the 10,000 hours mark, doing something you love is really helpful. It will help you go through difficult times. It will help you overcome boredom. Without it, the 10,000 hours will feel like a painful journey. It’s highly unlikely that you will ever reach the 10,000 hours mark that way.

3. What opportunities does the age give you?

Outliers shows that your birth date has significant influence on your success. For example, the book shows that being born in mid 1950s is great if you want to be a computer entrepreneur. Why? Because in mid 1970s when personal computer was born, you would be in good position to take advantage of it. You were not too old that you already had an established job with older generations of computer. Neither were you too young to have the necessary skills to take advantage of the opportunity.

So ask yourself: what opportunities does your birth date give you? What opportunities does the history give you at this point in time? Or, to put it another way, what window of opportunity is currently open for you?

Answering these questions is not easy because it’s difficult to see whether or not something will be hot. When Bill Gates did his 10,000 hours of practice to learn programming, he might not know that it would eventually put him in a perfect position to be a software mogul. You need to have faith in something and believe that the dots will eventually connect. In Steve Jobs’ words:

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something ”” your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.


It may take weeks to answer these questions but they will help you find your niche. You will know where to invest your precious 10,000 hours.

Photo by dizznbonn


  1. I came accross an article based on this book a couple of months back in the Guardian or the Sunday Times newspaper here in the UK. It was certainly thought provoking.
    As a side note, I have come accross quite a few great quotes from Steve Jobs, he seems to have quite a philosphical mindset.

  2. I agree with Garry, this is definitely a very thought provoking topic. I find the 10,000 hours rule interesting, but I also believe that there will be many, many if not more than those who apply, exceptions to the rule.

    Thanks for the post!


  3. Garry,
    Yes, there are some great quotes from Steve Jobs. I especially love his commencement address which I quote in the article above.


    I also believe that there will be many, many if not more than those who apply, exceptions to the rule.

    That’s interesting. I think the key here is the definition of “world-class performance.” The book seems to set very high standard for that. For instance, it mentions that Mozart wrote concerto since he was 11 years old. But it assumes that his work achieved world-class performance only when he was 21 years old.

  4. Jobs is correct in that you can’t connect the dots in future, and thus he indicts himself: A “visionary” such as he is merely somebody who got lucky more than 10 years ago.

  5. […] Finding Niche: Where to Invest Your 10,000 Hours of Practice […]

  6. Wow – that is eye opening – I never thought about connecting the dots back. I have not read Steve Jobs before – I’m going to have to now. Thanks for the great article.

  7. Hi Donald,

    I certainly agree to committing the 10,000 hours of practice into your passion. I strongly believe that to be the number one success principle in life and pursuing your passion has also been advocated by many of the most successful people like Steve Jobs.

    Here’s another great quote by Steve jobs:

    I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.

    Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.



  8. The process you described is a lot like when you search for a job. You ask yourself questions about what you like to do and such. These end up – hopefully – providing you with the perfect, dream job. I personally would like to spend those 10,000 hours blogging. It sure would a hell of a ton of fun.

  9. Rob,
    From what I see, luck does play a role in most (if not all) successful people’s life. Bill Gates also called himself lucky.

    I haven’t read anything else by Steve Jobs other than his commencement address at Stanford. I’d love to though.

    I also love that quote. That’s a great life lesson.


    I personally would like to spend those 10,000 hours blogging. It sure would a hell of a ton of fun.

    We have a lot of similarity then 🙂

  10. I just finished reading Outliers and figured out what I wanted to spend my 10,000 hours on — writing. 🙂 I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, but this isn’t always the case for a lot of people. I would definitely be interested in hearing how other people figure out what they are passionate about. What makes you realize your passion if you aren’t born knowing?

  11. Hi, this is the first time I’ve visited your blog and I’ll definitely be back. I really enjoyed this post. I don’t yet know where I want to spend my 10,000 hours as there are several things I’d like to do, but I do like the question about looking at what you’re passionate about. If we can find something that we love doing, then spending the time can often be quite easy. Great post!

    Cheers, Niro

  12. Positively Present,
    It’s good that you already know what you want to do in life. Unfortunately, many people don’t. It took me some time before I found mine.

    Welcome to Life Optimizer! I hope you will soon know where to spend your precious 10,000 hours 🙂

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