Peyton Manning is Exhibit A of the 10,000 hour rule

It had to happen.  And has done it.  Peyton Manning is truly exhibit A of the 10,000 hour rule.  And who wouldn’t think of him?

First, a reminder.  Malcolm Gladwell (borrowing the idea from Dr. Ericsson), popularized the finding that it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something.  And his book, Outliers, is filled with examples, Bill Gates and the Beatles notable among them.  (It also has to do with the age at which a person starts playing a sport, and the birthdate of the kid dictating when he/she starts).  It is a fascinating concept, one of those “blinding flash of the fricking obvious” concepts.  Well, of course, this makes sense.  People who work the hardest, and the longest, at something are going to be better at it than those who do not work as long or as hard…

So – here is Stefan Fatsis (a “sports voice” I know and love through NPR) writing Peyton Manning Is a Genius:  The Super Bowl quarterback is also a huge pain in the ass.  The very title of the article sounds just like Fatsis.

The article describes how Manning can be a pain, a hard guy to like, but not a hard guy to respect.  He simply works his way into the respect column of friend and foe alike.  (I heard that on the flight to the Pro Bowl, he spent the entire flight watching video of the Saints defense).

He apparently started all this by at least the 6th grade.  And here’s the best quote from the article:

“He lives, eats, breathes, smokes, snorts, chews football,” says Adam Meadows, a starter on the Colts’ offensive line during Manning’s first five pro seasons. “He’s just a machine. That’s all he wants to do.

Now – here’s a question:  why does the 10,000 hour rule lend itself so strongly to athletic illustrations of the rule?  Maybe because we all know athletes, and we know that there are so few truly great ones, and so many mediocre ones.  When one rises to the top of the top, as in the case of Manning, we are rightly wowed.  (Even if we think they are borderline, or not so borderline, unbalanced).

For those mere mortals among us, the 10,000 hour rule always seems  so abstract.  I don’t have video to watch of my opponent…  I don’t have training camp…  I don’t have the week-after-week test of a game…

So,  here is the question that we all have to ask:  “what do I care about enough to invest my heart, my soul, my energy into getting really, really good at it?  (What am I willing to eat, smoke, snort and chew…?)

With Manning it is football.  What is it with you?

One thought on “Peyton Manning is Exhibit A of the 10,000 hour rule

  1. Stefan Fatsis

    Hey Randy

    Thanks for the kind words. Funny you should mention the 10,000-hour rule of expertise. I was thisclose to include it and the concept of expertise in the piece. I actually did write about it and Dr. Ericsson (before Malcolm!) in my book “Word Freak” about my journey into the world of competitive Scrabble. Manning absolutely is exhibit A of the rule, and I’m glad you pointed it out.

    All best,


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