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10,000 Hours, Habit-Stacking, Permanence: Keys To Success

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Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Child prodigies, elite athletes, and rock stars aren't made overnight. Or by chance.

For every famous name or mind, thousands of hours were shaped and created them. There may have been some uncontrollable, "lucky" breaks improving their odds, but mostly, it was hours of repetition that paved the way.

Just like they worked hard to get where they did, you can, too. And not just hard, but also smart. Read on to learn what 10,000 hours, habit-stacking, and permanence had to do with the success of others and how to use the ideas to create your own success story.


10,000 Hours

Many decades ago, scientists researched chess players and published their findings in the journal "American Scientist." They found there are no instant masters or grandmasters of chess. All those who achieved those expert levels had at least 10,000 hours of practice under their belts. They had, on average, 10,000 to 50,000 hours of training spanning decades.

The Key Takeaways

We can learn a lot from the findings of those scientists:

  • Love. You have to love what you do to put that much time and effort into it.​
  • Drive. Be so in love with the goal that the years of hard work and practice don’t seem like torture.
  • Patience. Don’t expect speedy results. Set small goals as stepping stones on your path to success. Your greatness is likely decades in the making, though.

Habit Stacking

Habits lay the foundation for our daily routines. Those routines can make or break motivation, productivity, and focus.

Habits follow a circular pattern called the Habit Loop: cue, routine, reward, repeat. This automatic process helps us conserve mental energy by reducing the decisions we have to make and the time it takes to see them through. For example, if you eat chicken, green beans, and rice every weekday for lunch, you don't have to stop and wonder what or where to eat. You know to keep those groceries on hand and can even scale down your meal prep to once or twice a week, saving you time.

However, we all have habits that prevent productivity—scrolling social media when you should be working or having mindful family time? Yeah, sometimes our practices block our potential.

The Key Takeaways

  • Conquer your Habit Loop. Know your existing cues to create efficient routines. Don't forget the ‘reward’ part. Rewards can be internal, like the good feeling you get from achieving something, or external, like a massage after all your hard work.​
  • Replace poor habits with better ones. Take mindless social media scrolling as an example again. Let’s say you shut the alarm off on your phone and immediately get pulled into the vortex of the internet. Maybe you could replace that habit by hitting play on an educational audiobook or podcast that aligns with your goals instead.
  • Take a good habit and add more. Okay, let’s say you’re pretty efficient. Since there’s always room for continuous improvement, you are looking for ways to become even more productive. You brush your teeth every morning–an excellent habit! Could you listen to that educational podcast or audiobook while brushing your teeth and getting dressed? Respond to friends while walking Fido? Find an established habit, a cue, you already have and see what smaller ones you can add to it, achieving more goals in the same amount of time.


According to famous American football coach and leader Vince Lombardi, practice doesn’t make perfect unless that practice is perfect. What it does do is make a habit permanent.

In other words, the quality of the practice is just as important as the time you put into it. Imagine a child who practices piano with focus and mindfulness versus one who acts like they’d rather be anywhere else. Results will vary.

The Key Takeaways

  • Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does always make permanent. Poor practice routines will stick and cause you to fall short of your goals. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.​
  • Quality is just as important as quantity. Mindfulness or focus is an essential part of quality work.

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Using the understanding of big thinkers before us to reach higher heights and achieve greater things is why we go to school, study history, and read about others’ successes and failures. It’s why no one has to reinvent the wheel.

We learn from others. That knowledge becomes the new starting point. And we add on from there.

Can you imagine if the caveman or woman who invented the wheel kept that information to themselves? Or the one tribe who discovered fire let that die out with them?

Luckily, they shared that information. The next generation took that wheel design and found another use for it. Then another. And another.

Wheels and fire became the new starting point that others built on. And then those new creations became the next starting points until we have what we have today–skyscrapers, the internet, bitcoin…and the Goodyear blimp in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!

And when it comes to your success, however you define it, building a profitable business or brand, establishing yourself as an elite athlete, creating meaning, or being of service to others, you have access to the world’s key masterminds. As a starting point at your fingertips, you have online catalogs, podcasts, virtual schools, and more. All you have to do is be open to learning from those who have gone before you.

We covered some concepts you’ll want to know to help you achieve your successes more efficiently. Anything worth doing is rarely a piece of cake. However, you can stand on the shoulders of giants who have walked a similar path to yours and learn from them. Start with these habits of successful people before you, and you’re that much farther ahead on your journey.

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