It’s been an exciting week in my home town of Kansas City. For the first time since 1973, we are hosting Major League Baseball’s All Star Game and several related events. It’s an opportunity for the best of the best to really show their stuff! Hours upon hours have been spent by countless participants – sure the players and coaches, but also the grounds crews and catering staff and city planners and retailers and journalists and photographers and… the list goes on and on – to prepare for this week, to make sure that the city really shines. They put their expertise to the test to pull off a fantastic show. Developing that expertise, however, did not start the day it was announced that our city would host the game. No, it began for each of these individuals many, many years ago and they continue to hone their skills on a daily basis.
One concept that I really buy into is that of being a life-long learner. That is, a person who constantly and consistently strives to acquire new and advanced knowledge and information. I consider myself a lifelong learner and hope to continue to expand my mind for the rest of my days.
By contrast, I once had a manager who told me that because they already had an MBA and had risen through the corporate ranks to a relatively senior position, they no longer required professional development. I remember feeling sad for this individual – how boring the remainder of their career path would be given the prospect of no additional development necessary. To boot, this person was one of the least effective managers I had ever encountered and I believed that they would really benefit (and we, this person’s employees, would also benefit) from a little professional improvement!
Turns out, we’re never fully cooked, folks! There is always more that we can do to learn, to expand our knowledge, to improve our prowess at whatever task is at hand. The same, of course, holds true in networking.
I figure that in the first six months of this year alone, I have clocked at least 250 hours of networking time. That’s morning and afternoon Coffee meetings, Lunch meetings, networking events, conferences and the like. Assuming I keep up the same pace for the remainder of the year, let’s say I get in about 500 networking hours in 2012. Now, let’s assume that I had a similar average number of hours in each of the last four years since I really began networking in earnest. That’s about 2,000 networking hours. Seem like a lot? Well, perhaps it is a good start, but, truly, that ain’t nothin’!
In his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell asserts that for an individual to attain expert status in any given topic, he or she must spend at least 10,000 hours practicing and developing his/her proficiency. This 10,000-Hour Rule is described in the context of talents such as The Beatles which performed live in Hamburg, Germany more than 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964 racking up more than 10,000 hours of play time – not only enabling John, Paul, George and Ringo to become experts in their field, but giving them a sound and following unique to only them.
So, of course, the moral of this story is: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! It turns out that practice (for about 10,000 hours) makes perfect, or so I’ve been told. What that means for all of us is that we need to get out there, NOW! and start networking. Start clocking those hours. We can certainly have fun and find value in meeting and building professional relationships with others while amassing expertise as a result of our efforts. In this way, we can each strive to become All Stars!