Hacking Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule

A deeper look into the popularized theory of 'Outliers'
Malcolm Gladwell (Youtube screenshot)
Malcolm Gladwell (Youtube screenshot)

Does it really take 10,000 hours to become successful? In his 2008 book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” Malcolm Gladwell goes from one example to the next in support of this very hypothesis.


But surely there’s got to be a faster way? Given that there are many driven, creative, ambitious people out there … even if it spent 9,000 hours to figure it out, there’s got to be a way to hack this rule?

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, The Beatles … these are all personalities that he brings in support of his claim.

But there is a way! The way to hack the 10,000 rule is by first conceptualizing what it means to attain “10,000.” As 1,000 corresponds to the superconscious sefirah of keter (crown), then 10,000 is an indication of the infusion of the superconscious into the ten conscious sefirot of the soul.

When approached in this way, the 10,000 rule represents the point at which creative individuals have learned to traverse the divide between the superconscious realm of creativity, and the conscious.

Becoming Conscious of Creativity

In Kabbalah, the bridge between the superconscious realm of keter, and the first conscious realm of chochmah (wisdom), is called the koa’ch hamaskil (lit., “the enlightening power”).

Let’s paste the relevant portion of the chart from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s book Anatomy of the Soul:

Without going into the levels of pleasure and will (which are the inner and outer experiences or keter), notice that the intermediate level between the transcendent keter, and the immanent or consciously experienced intellect (the word “immanent” is cut off on the left) is koa’ch hamaskil. Even without knowing the term, any highly creative or intuitive person is very much aware of this level. To quote from the book:

The Realm of the Intellect

There are four properties represented in the realm of the intellect. The first—the ko’ach hamaskil—which serves as a bridge between keter and revealed intellect. It is synonymous with the branch of the soul identified earlier as the hidden intellect. The remaining three properties of the intellect—chochmah (wisdom), binah (understanding), and da’at (knowledge )—all represent revealed powers of intelligence, offshoots of one’s conscious intellect. Each of these powers makes its own unique contribution to the awareness that takes root in consciousness.

…By grafting one’s consciousness to the ground of all being, one’s mind becomes a conduit for Divine wisdom, which expresses itself through flashes of spontaneous intuitive insight. As bolts of lightning, these flashes of insight may lack gravity and permanence, but nevertheless serve to spark one’s subsequent pursuit of meaningful knowledge.

These flashes ultimately derive from a hidden source within crown referred to in Chassidut as ko’ach hamaskil (“the enlightening power”) or in Kabbalah as “the hidden brain” (mocha stima’ah). Ko’ach hamaskil represents both the sum of one’s cognitive potential and the power that brings it to light. As reflected in wisdom itself, the enlightening brain enables one to identify the core abstraction or nothingness (ayin) that underlies all true knowledge of reality.

Landing Creativity

I highlighted in bold the sentence above because it holds the secret to our present topic.

We usually think of creative-mind souls as free-spirited, barely touching their feet to the ground. But whereas these individuals have ideas, and plenty of them, many of the best ideas flash in-and-out before the person can even jot them down; let alone act on them. The solution is to realize that we are conduits for these ideas. While the light and power of these ideas may be too immense for us to hold on our own, since our intention is to pass them on to others, the more we view ourselves as conduits for world-benefiting ideas, the less our personal limitations matter.

While it make take some people 10,000 hours to realize this–to the point of giving up hope over ever succeeding–for us this experience can happen in an instant. All it takes is a shift in focus from ourselves to the world that stands to benefit from these ideas.

10,000 hours is also 600,000 minutes, a beautiful allusion to the 600,000 that stood at Mount Sinai. Even though the revelations were great, the entire Jewish nation stood as “one person, with one heart.” So while we each of us have the ability and potential to express ourselves creatively, it should be done with a strong sense of communal togetherness.

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About the Author
Yonatan Gordon is a student of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and co-founder of
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