I enjoy reading books that help me think about the world in different ways. One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. His books are both entertaining and enlightening. He discusses, in What the Dog Saw, how “hair color” helped shape the woman’s movement of the 1960’s. In another book, David and Goliath, Malcolm addresses how it was “David (from the Bible) and not Goliath,” who had the advantage from the onset in their epic battle. But one of my favorite chapters comes from the book entitled, Outliers.
In the chapter called, the 10,000-Hour Rule, Malcolm shares his views on the means to success. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking narrative. He uses the example of two very resourceful men (Bill Joy and Bill Gates) of the 1970’s and one very ingenious Rock & Roll Band (The Beatles) from the 1960’s and how they each reached the pinnacle of success.
He states from the beginning that all three had “innate talent.” This is the aptitude, intelligence, and capabilities that we are essentially born with. We know intuitively that successful athletes, musicians, and business people have loads of talent.
But talent alone, he asserts, is not enough to achieve success. Malcolm states that practice, lots of it, is the key. He argues that without the opportunity for intense, prolonged, and concentrated practice, no one can become exceptionally successful in a given field. He even identifies the “magic number” of hours it takes to become an expert. It is 10,000 hours.
Malcolm makes it clear that in addition to practice, for one to reach perfection in one’s profession, they also need the “opportunities” that come as a result of good fortune, chance, lucky breaks, happy accidents, and most of all, good timing.
In other words, it’s these randomly occurring opportunities along with lots of practice that essentially led these three examples to unparalleled success.
While I do agree that practice does help one gain a foundation for success, Malcolm fails to mention exactly where does this innate talent come from? He never hints as to who provides these opportunities to occur and when timing comes into play. Most importantly, Malcolm doesn’t recognize that practice does not ultimately make one perfect.
From a Biblical standpoint, everyone is given talents “according to his ability.” (Matthew 25:15) This talent is given to us by our Creator, God Himself. It’s not the amount of talent that determines success, it’s what one does with the talent that he/she is given for God’s glory that determines success. The Bible says that if you are “faithful in managing small amounts, then you will be put in charge of large amounts.” (Matthew 25:21)
Faithfulness in utilizing our talents is the measure of success.
Not only were we created by God, but the “Lord has determined our path.” (Proverbs 20:24) It’s not chance, but the Lord’s timing that determines what we all do. It is the Lord that provides our good fortune and wealth. “It is the Lord’s blessing that makes you wealthy. Hard work can make you no richer.” (Proverbs 10:22)
“People may plan all kinds of things, but the Lord’s will is going to be done.” (Proverbs 19:21) Everything here on earth and in heaven above is done in God’s timing and for God’s glory!
What have Bill Joy, Bill Gates, and the Beatles done for God’s glory? Nothing! It is God who gave them the talent, opened up windows of opportunity, and enabled perfect timing to come into play in their lives. While they were successful in storing up for themselves treasures here on earth for short term gratification of approximately 70 or 80 years, they have failed (so far) in storing up for themselves treasures in heaven, which last an eternity.
Not once did any of them give God the glory for their success. Credit was not given where credit was due.
Whatever the opportunities and blessings that God brings us, we ought to take consolation in that He is looking out for our best interest. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Do we really know or are we just going along for the ride? Do we really know He loves us? Do we know that He has our best interest in mind if we are called according to His purposes? Sometimes we live as though we do not know. We think that because we have planned out certain steps, and want to take a certain path, that when such a path crumbles before our eyes that God has forsaken us. Know that He has His perfect will at work.
True success in this life is knowing where our talents come from, giving God the glory, using our talents to the best of our ability, and striving for eternal rewards.
It’s not practice that makes perfect. It’s Christ’s righteousness within us, imputed into us by our faith alone in His atonement on the cross that makes us perfect.