The 10,000-Hour Rule

I occasionally have my hearers ask me how I know so much about the historical background of the Scriptures. Perhaps they heard something I taught which connected in a way they had not thought of before, or learned something which had previously eluded them. My response is pretty uniform: I have spent most of my adult life seeking to know more about the Scriptures!

In 2008 a book called Outliers: The Story of Success, by author and New Yorker magazine writer Malcolm Gladwell became a best seller. Gladwell had previously written The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2002) and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2007) – all three books examine the relationship between success, inspiration (i.e., genius), hard work, and opportunity in business and careers.

I mention these books because of their proposal that circumstances and opportunities often outweigh innate talent. But he especially emphasizes over and over that real competency at something (including, I would think, Bible knowledge or teaching) is greatly determined by his so-called “10,000-Hour Rule.” This “rule” states that truly successful or capable people in a given field have invested at least 10,000 hours working at their passion or interest to get to their skill level. He acknowledges that opportunities and “being in the right place at the right time” played a part, but pursuing and working at something consistently and persistently for thousands of hours over 5 or 10 or more years have the most profound effect.

Where am I going with this? Certainly Gladwell was not writing about spiritual pursuits but about business. And probably there are many things in his books with which we would take issue. But I think his fundamental proposition stands firm. There are no true shortcuts to success in Bible knowledge and application. Spending 10-20 hours per week for 10 or more years reading, studying, teaching, analyzing, outlining, and exegeting the Bible has its reward. That may not be the message a microwaveable, fast food, instant gratification generation is looking for, but it is the lesson it needs.