10,000 Hours Applying Genius Level Talent

Everybody is a genius at something. However, it’s rare to find a coach, consultant or exceptional athlete that is an expert in every sport. Certainly there’s something to being a Jack or Jackie-of-all trades, but when it comes to greatness and excellence there is something very personal, unique and specialized about that. Research points to the 10,000 hr rule or the 10-year rule, indicating that in order to be considered a master or expert it takes at least 10,000 hrs or 10 years of deliberate practice. Malcolm Galdwell author of the book Outliers states “No one succeeds at a high level without innate talent…“achievement is talent plus preparation.” But the ten-thousand-hour research reminds us that “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.” Bruce Lee’s wisdom alludes to the deliberate practice concept and indicated that the most feared “opponent” is one that has a “weapon” in which he or she has mastered i.e. one kick practiced 10,000 times.

If a coach, consultant or mentor were to ask you “Do you want to be a genius or master in an your area of talent or sport?” Would you say “yes”? I would. What if they told you must be willing to commit to grinding, focusing, deliberately practicing without accolades or recognition for at least 10 years or 10,000 hours, would your answer still be “yes”?

Last weekend was the Marathon Olympic Trails in LA. It was an amazing race with true legends toeing the line. The best athletes on that day made TEAM USA! If you follow me on Twitter it was no surprise that I was rooting for Desiree (formerly Davila) Linden to win the women’s race and make the team and she did! I have followed Desi’s (and Kara’s) career for a while and I was rooting for Desi for many reasons but the main one is that her race exemplifies this 10 year/10,000< hour rule and what it means to commit to your genius talent to achieve your personal dream. In December 2011 Runner’s World wrote:

“When Davila flew out to Detroit in 2005, the Hanson brothers talked up the hardships. The winters will be tough. Your parents will wonder if you’re wasting your life. “You’re going to have a lot of years of putting in mileage that nobody sees,” Keith told her. “People won’t know your name. It can take five or six years. This is what it is.” Davila didn’t flinch. “I know what it is,” she said. “I still want to be a part of it.”

In six years, Desiree Davila went from the third-fastest runner on a Pac-10 team to the third fastest American female marathoner of all time. That’s no miracle. It’s a transformation that came about through thousands of mornings and 10,000 miles on a creek-side trail north of Detroit….Walt Drenth, Davila’s college coach, has an explanation for her success. “Are you familiar with the hedgehog theory?” he says. “It’s pretty appropriate for distance runners. The idea is, you put your head down and do the same thing consistently for a long period of time. Eventually you become successful at it. For runners, the key thing is to do that and remain healthy….For Davila, it’s a confirmation of her faith in the simple rewards of her sport. “Running is just you, the work you put in, and the clock,” she says. “You can’t cheat yourself. If you don’t put in the miles, you can’t go to the starting line thinking you’re going to pull a miracle out of nowhere. You get out exactly as much as you put in.”

Fast forward to last weekend when Desi made her 2nd Olympic marathon team, 11 years after she flew out to Michigan. What you witnessed in Desi’s exceptional performance, strategy and tactics that day were a manifestation of her commitment , deliberate practice and intention she made 11 years ago when none of this was a reality (I’m betting she visualized this performance and moment thousands of times in her mind, but that is for another blog).

Do you realize that this potential is in you too?

Do you have that level of self-belief and dedicated action in your area of genius?

Do you know that self-belief and dedication action a.k.a deliberate practice is something you can learn to do consistently?

Remember, you are a genius at something! Find it. Seek it. Soul search for it to the world ends. Because everyone in this world is uniquely born with genius in them- it may not be sports, music, or the traditional “talent” stereotype but it’s there. It could be the gift of public speaking, encouraging, focus, integrity, etc. When you discover your genius THEN ask yourself if you truly want to be great at it? If so, practice your ass off to no end and believe, over and over AND over again, that anything is possible.

“We all have genius-level talent, we just have to find out what [we’re] genius at and … your full potential. Don’t let all the outside things get in the way.” —Jay Z

Keep shining and reaching for your peak fellow Geniuses!

-Dr. G


Deliberate Practice: What It Is and Why You Need It 

Runners World: She Can Do It 

Psychological Review Journal: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance 

Book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The New Yorker: Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule 


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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.