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[Op-Ed] 1,000 Jumps

Posted August. 17, 2009 08:12,   


“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell is a must-read book for CEOs going on vacation. An outlier means “something or somebody that is separated from a main body.” The author, however, defines the word as an individual who achieved exceptional success. Gladwell suggests the “10,000-hour rule,” claiming that the key to success in any field is investing around 10,000 hours in it. If one dedicates three hours a day to a sector, it will take 10 years.

The Beatles honed their skills before making it big by playing at a bar in Hamburg, Germany, eight hours a day for three years. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had access to a computer terminal at a time when most people had no idea what it was. He also spent about 10,000 hours on computers.

A study said professional musicians spent three times more hours practicing their instruments than high school music teachers. Ballerina Kang Soo-jin is nicknamed a “practice worm” for having to throw away 150 pairs of worn-out toe shoes per season.

Yet it takes far more than 10,000 hours to be the best. Researchers Janice Deakin and Stephen Cobley observed 24 figure skaters practicing. According to Time magazine, the researchers found that elite skaters spent 68 percent of their sessions practicing jumps — one of the riskiest and most demanding feats in figure skating. They practiced difficult jumps even if it meant suffering pratfalls constantly. Second-tier skaters spent just 48 percent of their time on jumps and took more breaks than their elite peers.

World figure skating champion Kim Yu-na and five-time world champion Michelle Kwan performed a fantastic duet in an ice show at Seoul Olympic Park yesterday. Kim’s excellent skills enchanted the audience. No star or prodigy is made overnight, however. Kim’s coach Brian Orser said, “If anyone thinks Kim’s talent is a heaven’s blessing, I’d like to ask him or her to observe how she practices for just three days.”

In his autobiography, Orser said Kim’s only defect is that she is perfectionist who practices too much. Kim suffers at least 3,000 pratfalls to practice one jump. Hopefully, many young Koreans can learn from her challenge and self-control.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)