“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”  –  Malcolm Gladwell

VENTURES AFRICA – This post is a sequel to an article –  Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?  – which generated quite a buzz mostly due to the nature/nurture question it posed. Notable among the feedback was one from a Nigerian entrepreneur, Tayo Oviosu, Founder/CEO of Paga. According to him, I hadn’t taken a stance in the article, thus this sequel will do the needful. Dans mon avis, entrepreneurs may be born, but they would have  to nurture their entrepreneurial traits to be truly successful a la Johann Rupert, Bill Gates, etc.

To buttress my point, insights from Malcolm Gladwell’s book  – Outliers: The Story of Success would be used. Outliers is a non-fiction book, which Gladwell wrote with the intent of examining factors that contribute to high level success in life. He posited in his masterpiece that research findings have linked hours of practice and expertise in any given field to success. Gladwell puts forward a common theme throughout Outliers, which he named the “10,000-Hour Rule”. He said the key to success in any field is, to a large extent,  the practicing a specific tasks for a total of around 10,000 hours. Gladwell also supported this claim with examples in his book.

Among the examples cited by Gladwell is that of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and how he achieved extreme wealth. Gladwell’s interview of Bill Gates was recorded in the book where Microsoft’s founder said that ‘his unique access to a computer at a time when they were not commonplace helped him succeed’. Gates while still in High school had hours of access to computers and he coded away. Without that access, Gladwell states that Gates would still be “a highly intelligent, driven, charming person and a successful professional.” In simple terms, the Microsoft billionaire would have just been a born entrepreneur! But that is not the case for him, why? He worked on his genius and made a fortune out of it – he nurtured the natural.

I’m of the view that entrepreneurs are made not born! Yes, entrepreneurs may be born with natural qualities like creativity, ingenuity and passion, but does guarantee success or greatness? Not really. The real path to being a successful  entrepreneur is getting to work on your entrepreneurial ability.

Entrepreneurs are made. They are made from their background, education, families and circumstances.  They are made from their obstacles, failures, and successes. And most importantly, they are made from their past and present experiences.

Further, when you listen to an entrepreneur tell his story,  the inevitably talk about the external factors that shaped their entrepreneurial journey. Successful people are shaped as much, if not more, by outward experiences other than by their innate qualities. Although, that may not be the case in all situations.

Back to Outliers, the 10,000-hour rule is now the gospel among a segment of society that believe that hours logged for young athletes and musicians is the key to success. But does this apply to entrepreneurship? Yes.  We all have an element of entrepreneurial genius in us but often time we fail to just get to work on it. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, put in 10,000 hours of work on your innate entrepreneurial abilities.  It is a challenge, and as you get to work greatness would sure be yours!

Till next time, we are all work in progress… Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


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