The Beatles, 10K Hours of Practice, Arrogance, and more.


So, Malcolm Gladwell has (in)famously accredited The Beatles’s success to the fact that they put in 10,000 hours of practice while they were in Liverpool and touring in Germany. It’s a nice, tidy idea but it isn’t correct. In fact, they were also very talented. In fact, they were also persistent. In fact, they had more than their fair share of arrogance.

To quote the article:

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Arrogance—a kind of foolish, adolescent self-belief; an ignorant, intuitive certainty that your way is the right way—is the root of all great art.

If you read the article linked above (and if you’re a creative person working in a creative field, you should) you learn about the times The Beatles were turned down standard opportunities. The biggest was the offer to record their first song, something someone else had written, but they insisted on “Love Me Do”. Because of that (and a million other choices) they became The Beatles.

However, one thing the article dances around but never explicitly lays out: They were a group of friends. It wasn’t just one person, struggling away at their art. They supported each other, taught each other, and listened to each other when one of the others said they should stand firm.

How many times has a proto-John Lennon found himself among dilettantes, their passion to create slowly undermined by the fact that no one in their circle shares it? How many of those people get discouraged, give up and find jobs at insurance companies or whatever?

That’s why it’s important to have a circle of friends who are passionate about the same things you are and who are creating that you think is amazing. Foolish self-belief is a delicate bubble for most rational people, and it helps to have a community around you to help protect it, because the world is full of people who want to shred the happy arrogance of creative people.