Macklemore’s 10,000 hours

A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of Commerce/Business Studies teachers about the impact of Social Media on Business today. In the opening slides, I referred to Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers‘ and the 10,000 hour rule discussed in that book (inspired by a scientific study in American Scientist by Herbert Simon and William Chase). It’s a contentious idea, one that suggests that you need at least 10,000 hours to become proficient in your field. (Read this article from Malcolm Gladwell that discusses his thinking in some detail) I was trying to make the point that I was capable of delivering my presentation because I had invested near on 10,000 hours in social networks and had read plenty about business and their changing approaches. I’m not sure I convinced all of those present, but I firmly believed (and continue to believe) that the 10,000 hour rule rings true.

It seems Macklemore does too. I’ve been listening to ‘The Heist‘ for over 12 months now and find it an inspiring album. I’ve used ‘Same Love‘ and ‘Wings‘ as examples of what I consider contemporary poetry of today in my ‘Language of our Times’ class. When my students were working on a Spoken Word poetry task, dissecting the lyrics of Wings and the imagery utilised within those lyrics was one of the most powerful lessons of our year.

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I’ve never really paid attention to the lyrics of the opening track, 10,000 hours, until just recently. It was when I heard reference to Gladwell in the lyrics that my ears pricked up and I began to listen more intently. What I discovered was his story, his commitment to his craft and his ability to rise above a school system where he didn’t find himself ‘top of the class’. Take a read of these lyrics to see what I mean;

Now, now, now
This is my world, this is my arena
The TV told me something different I didn’t believe it
I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone’s greatest obstacle, I beat ’em
Celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I’m actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I study art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic
Just let me be
No child left behind, that’s the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is
Ten thousand

Not being American, I had to look up what a 980 SAT score meant. It means that you’ve ranked in the 6th percentile of all students who sat the exam. Ninety four percent of students scored better. When I look at the success of Macklemore , then it’s obvious that this is a person who does not let an exam result define him. Instead, he saw his potential.

Take that, system.

I’m starting my ‘Language of our Times’ class this year with 10,000 hours. This is a class that explores how we communicate in today’s world. Macklemore and Lewis independently produced ‘The Heist’ and it rose to number one on the iTunes charts within days of release. No record company made that happen. Their sheer hard work in the preceding years and a core army of supporters who shared and promoted this album through the social networks we inhabit made that happen. The world is different. Some people, those with talent, but perhaps even more importantly, with persistence and determination, know it.

Is our education system helping our students understand that there might be different pathways to success? How many young people passionate about something never get an opportunity to pursue this through the curriculum offerings in traditional school? What are we doing to help these students understand what they may need to do to fulfil their dreams? How many teachers even have any concept of what can be done using the networks of today? Sure, not everyone will succeed, but our students do deserve to hear the stories of people who have taken the non-traditional route.

Read Macklemore’s story. Share it around. Open eyes.

* and if you happen to read this Macklemore, I’ve got a group of students in Australia who’d love a virtual visitor to their class. I’m dreaming big. You taught me that. 😉



7 Replies to “Macklemore’s 10,000 hours”

  1. A powerful post, and one that has a message that many students need to hear. His statement about not having a test define him is something that every student should here. I also agree with your view on using songs as a form of poetry. It is with this view that you can open your students to different views, and allow them see that the skills they learn in classes like “Language in our Times” can be used outside of the classroom.

  2. I love the way you incorporate secular life into your teaching. Also, I love the way you point out flaws in the system to your students, when other teachers want to encourage students to live by the system. I’ve read many of your blog posts, and I love so many of them! I will definitely be a loyal reader from here on out.

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