The 10,000 Hour Apprenticeship

Malcolm Gladwell, in his excellent book “Outliers,” postulates that society’s overachievers parlay what is often a negligible, early advantage in a particular endeavor or sport into an insurmountable lead.

In fact, Gladwell calls this “The Matthew Principle,” after the notion that more will be given to those that already have.

Gladwell’s contribution is highlighting how small — and often arbitrary — the initial advantage actually is.

So, in the top circles of Canadian junior hockey, a startling number of premier players also happen to be . . . the oldest. The calendar cut-off for each level is Dec. 31, so the oldest — and most mature — players have birthdays falling disproportionately in January, February, etc.

Given that Canadian hockey is a giant winnowing system, it is the slightly more advanced youth who move up to the elite levels, where their skills are honed even further. And so on.

Before readers can smugly dismiss the phenomenon, Gladwell notes that it also characterizes most organized sports around the world, higher education, the creative arts, and myriad other fields.

10,000 Hours

According to Gladwell, simply being put on the “high achievement” escalator doesn’t assure success; staying on it does.

Gladwell argues that in fields as diverse as nuclear physics, rock ‘n roll, computer programming and championship golf, empirical evidence suggests that true virtuosity requires an “apprenticeship” of about 10,000 hours.

Does the same principle apply to real estate?

Kind of.

Unlike Canadian youth hockey, it’s not simply the case that all the top Realtors simply started the earliest; in fact, the field is famously popular as a second career (I was north of 40 when I got in).

However, it’s undeniably true that the more deals you do, the better you get, and the better you get . . . the more deals you do.

Assuming that the average residential deal takes 200 hours, if Gladwell’s right, real estate “outliers” need to have handled about 50 deals (50 x 200 hrs = 10,000 hrs) to crack the upper echelon.

Sounds about right to me . . .

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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