Malcolm Gladwell — popularizer of the 10,000 hour “rule” — has a short essay on the New Yorker website today addressing the “natural born” concept, mostly for chess players, but really for every skill. His conclusion is that there is very little “natural born” element at work. This is sooo relevant to our Connection Storymaking Workshop where we can give you the rules, but not the 10,000 hours.


THE GOOD BOOK COMETH: September 9. I cite Gladwell’s 10,000 hour “rule of thumb” repeatedly in relation to how long it will take you to become a great storyteller. We recently had a person at a research institute say to us, “Oh, we’ve already had two or three storytelling workshops here.” As if it’s a, “been there, done that,” issue. Like, “we’ve already nailed the storytelling thing.” Yeah, right.



The point is pretty simple. As Gladwell says, citing his own book, “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”

This is what we say with our Connection Storymaking Workshops. We can give you the cerebral part — the basic rules and building blocks. You are going to have to put in the 10,000 hours to develop the visceral part.

Which makes sense to me. I started college at the University of Kansas with a bunch of Kansas farm boys — many of whom were unbelievable storytellers — really the best I’ve ever known. They could silence an entire bar of drunks as they would tell tall tales of growing up in the flatlands of Kansas. But those guys started hearing great storytelling as they emerged from the womb. Do the math. 10 hours a day of storytelling makes 3,650 hours a year. By age 3 they were already past their 10,000 hours.

Gladwell is right. Probably “not so much” on the natural born thing.