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My 10,000 Hours

Posted On: January 31, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell’s Rule

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell holds up the 10,000 Hour Rule as the bar of entry to mastery of any task. He cites the Beatles 1,200 sets in Hamburg before they hit it big and Bill Gates’ early access to a computer in his school as fundamental to his developmental thinking.

My 10,000 Hours

Our old VHS offline system

It kind of begs the question, where did you spend your 10,000 hours? For me, it was on an archaic linear offline video editing system. I spent a decade painstakingly cutting hundreds of videos. To create an EDL (edit decision list) on the system, you’d literally write down the in and out numbers of each edit and read them out to an online editor.

It seems like 10,000 hours kind of wasted now. With digital systems you can edit 5x as quickly. But, work with any grizzled vet and you’ll recognize a more organic rhythm to their work. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing the Cello

Q Media’s 10,000 Hours

My next 10,000 hours? At Q Media we’ve produced over a thousand commercials and videos. I’ve had a hand in a fair percentage. It doesn’t take a lot of math to calculate that I’m well north of 10,000 hours. There have been lots of clunkers along the way and each one bugs me still. I’m guessing Yo-yo Ma has that feeling when he plays the wrong note. Most people don’t even recognize those wrong notes, or those bad videos.  But that doesn’t make me feel any better.

10,000 Brings Nuance

Conversely we’ve produced lots of great videos. As a whole, our batting average is going up. There are a lot of factors that go into that: cameras that are more user friendly, powerful edit and graphic programs – and more Q staffers crossing that 10,000-hour threshold.  Producing a video is a lot more than shooting and editing a scene. It’s understanding nuance, subject matter and client expectations. Most clients have an idea of what they like to see visually, but articulating that can be difficult. Our job is to try and understand that desire and translate those expectations into powerful messages.

That, to me is an art form.

Your Audience Has Their 10,000 Hours

The other challenge we have is our audience. Try and estimate the number of hours you’ve spent in front of a television set. Maybe…10 hours a week? Times 20 years. Congratulations, you’ve completed your 10,000 hours in television viewing. You are a master of the medium, with a virtual PhD in television viewing.

We constantly find that while clients may have a difficult time articulating what they want, they are surprisingly sophisticated in their critique of work. Same goes with an audience. An audience’s ability to savage an inauthentic message is incredible.

So, if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s this: never underestimate the level of understanding and sophistication of your audience. After all, they have their 10,000 hours.

He used to write, direct, shoot, edit … started Q in 2000 and grew the business so successfully that his talented staff took over all of his roles. Now Richard provides his wisdom on his blog Picture This!, plays Angry Birds, and oh yeah -- he juggles about 20 projects at once. Get to know Richard a little better ...

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