Paul Ollinger

Why 10,000 hours doesn’t guarantee the success of your dream

Image for post
Image for post
Illustration: Dora Godfrey / Medium

In‌ ‌his‌ ‌2008‌ ‌bestselling book ‌Outliers‌,‌ ‌Malcolm‌ ‌Gladwell‌ ‌delivered‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ mainstream‌ ‌the‌ ‌theory‌ ‌that‌ ‌gaining‌ ‌mastery‌ ‌of‌ ‌any‌ ‌craft‌ ‌requires‌ ‌10,000‌ ‌hours‌ ‌of‌ ‌dedicated‌ ‌practice — as he calls it, “the magic number of greatness.”

The‌ ‌trade‌ you’re in doesn’t‌ ‌matter‌ ‌much‌, he argued, ‌because‌ ‌what‌ ‌all‌ ‌skill-based‌ ‌pursuits‌ ‌have‌ ‌in‌ ‌common‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌repetition — at‌ ‌the‌ ‌scale‌ ‌of‌ ‌years‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌life — is‌ ‌the‌ only path ‌to‌ ‌proficiency.‌ ‌Similarly, the actual number of hours may vary, but that’s not the point. In‌ this ‌controversial model,‌ “10,000‌ ‌hours”‌ ‌plays‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌symbolic‌ ‌role‌ ‌as‌‌ ‌“40‌ ‌years‌ ‌in‌…


What watching my kid play baseball taught me about life

Filtered image of a young kid hitting a baseball with a bat.
Filtered image of a young kid hitting a baseball with a bat.
Photo illustration; Image source: Shoji Fujita/Getty Images

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

— Babe Ruth, Babe Ruth’s Own Book of Baseball

Watching your child play baseball can be a highly stressful experience, especially when they get up to bat. Your pulse soars and hands tense as you wonder whether they’ll triumph or return to the dugout in defeat.

Last season, my parental nerves grew increasingly agitated when my son adopted the strategy of not swinging in hopes of earning a walk. While it worked often, his coach pushed him to be more aggressive so he could gain the confidence…


Meditating on our fleeting mortality might sound like a downer, but the ancient practice can help us find more tranquility while we’re here

Image for post
Image for post
Photo illustration; Image source: Westend61/Getty Images

A couple weeks ago, I felt a dull ache in my abdomen. It wasn’t painful, but it was persistent and, since the belly houses several mission-critical organs, I decided to get it checked out. My doctor seemed puzzled by my nonspecific symptoms, especially since a recent colonoscopy and upper GI scan indicated all was good. So he ordered a slew of tests and an ultrasound, which he scheduled for the next afternoon.

After I left my samples and departed the office, I spent the next 24 hours Googling “stomach pain” while contemplating my imminent death. The internet suggested I had…


How Tony Hsieh’s death demonstrates our need to work

Image for post
Image for post
Tony Hsieh, 1973–2020 (Photo — Charlie Llewellin)

After two decades grinding away in the corporate world, I quit my job at 42 years-old. I didn’t have a plan, but I did have some money and decided I would use it to live a life free from the stress of professional employment. Because not working is the ultimate dream, right?

A few months later, I found myself sitting on the couch, shoving Pirate’s Booty into my bored face, and enduring constant heckling from the annoying neighbor between my ears. That brain, lacking work’s daily responsibilities and long-term goals, cried out for a purpose: “We should be famous,” Brain…


If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that life is local. Research from the World Happiness Report backs this up.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo illustration; Image: FilippoBacci/Getty Images

A few years into my marriage, my young family relocated to my childhood hometown of Atlanta. After a couple of decades moving all over the country for a series of new schools or job opportunities, I felt it was time to pick a place and put down some roots.

But after several months back home, things weren’t gelling socially quite the way I had hoped. So I called my former leadership coach, Alpesh Bhatt, and confessed that I just wasn’t finding the community I had hoped to rediscover. Al, who seemed to know me well from the first day we…


Lessons from my father on gratitude, service, and the power of showing up

Image for post
Image for post
Photo courtesy of the author

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

My dad died the other day. He left this world while napping in his favorite recliner surrounded by his children. He was 93.

Despite my love and commitment to my father, I have shed zero tears over his passing. I promise I’m not an unfeeling monster (I cried at least once when I took my daughter to see Wicked). …


COLUMN

How to quit measuring success by net worth, fancy titles, or TikTok views

Image for post
Image for post
Photo illustration; source: Stuart Walmsley/Getty Images

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

A few years ago, when I was looking for a new workout routine, my wife suggested I take a spin class at a place called Flywheel. The last time I had biked en masse was at a fancy California health club, so Flywheel’s spandexed clientele, neon lighting, and ebullient instructor were not new to me. But one thing did stand out: Behind the coach hung a flat-panel screen displaying each rider’s name, bike number, and total “power points.” It was a scoreboard.

Giving it little…


Column

Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, tells us what the Danes know about converting wealth into well-being

Filtered image of a person’s legs dangling over water with European buildings in the background.
Filtered image of a person’s legs dangling over water with European buildings in the background.
Photo illustration; Image source: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

Winters in Copenhagen are long and dreary. Denmark’s tax rates are legitimately scary. And Hamlet was a bit glum, to say the least. But year after year, the Danes place at or near the top of the World Happiness Report, a global ranking that uses Gallup World Poll data to measure contentment by country.

By comparison, the United States seems like it should score very well on a happiness test. Winters here are, on average, far more temperate. Our tax rates are relatively benign. And…


What I’ve learned after years of studying money and happiness

Black and white photo of one USD bills against a purple gradient background.
Black and white photo of one USD bills against a purple gradient background.
Photo illustration; Image source: LEREXIS/Getty Images

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

In the oft-quoted climax of the 1996 blockbuster Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise stares through teary eyes at Renée Zellweger, the love interest he’d almost let slip through his distracted, metaphorical hands.

His last-chance pitch to win her back: “You complete me.”

This sincere vulnerability captured her heart and five Oscar nominations despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that his revelation perpetuates a prevalent but childish fantasy: that each of us is an incomplete person lacking only a tiny gift from the universe…


Who We’ll Be After This

What happened when I looked outside of my noisy head

Image for post
Image for post
Photo illustration. Sources: Oliver Rossi/Getty Images, Westend61/Getty Images, Brigitte Sporrer/Getty Images

On a recent walk around the block, I saw my neighbor, Ted, coming the other way.

Ted and I are friendly, but don’t know each other that well. I threw out a “Hey buddy!” but didn’t break stride. While he’s usually good for a smile and a wave, all I got in return were raised eyebrows and a lukewarm head nod.

In my pre-quarantine days, I would have thought, “Well, Ted’s being a bit of a crab today,” and maintained my brisk 21-minute-per-mile pace. But these are not normal times, so I crossed the street and stopped six feet short.

Paul Ollinger

Comedian. Host of the Crazy Money podcast. Proud former Facebook and Yahoo! sales person/leader. http://PaulOllinger.com/podcast

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store