10,000 Hours Of Improv

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I think we can all agree that Will Smith is the man. He’s married to a sexy laday, he once had 8 consecutive movies make over $100 million, and he personally made MIB3 watchable. The dude can do it all, and a lot of people look at his handsome face and wonder how a human being could possibly be born so talented. How inconceivably lucky. But whenever Will is asked about how he became so talented, he always says he’s no more talented than the average person. His key to success is his sickening work ethic. He uses a lot of treadmill metaphors in his interviews, but the best two I’ve ever heard are the following:

1. If we get on treadmills at the same time, you’re getting off first or I’m going to die on this thing.

2. If you say you’re going to run 2 miles but you only run 1, I know I never have to worry about you beating me at anything.

Pretty interesting stuff, and according to Malcolm Gladwell, Will Smith is exactly right. The people who really break the mold aren’t the people who ace tests without studying, they’re the people who can study for 20 hours in a row and then do it again the next day. They’re the people who put in hour after hour and are forged through the fire of repetition. The obsessive ones are the individuals who get really good.

Malcolm Gladwell’s metric is 10,000 hours. If you can put 10,000 into an activity, you’re an expert. It seems like this might work with darts or tennis, but shouldn’t hold true for an artistic pursuit (like improv for example), but I’ll bet my ass it does. Getting improv into your bones through brute force is such a necessary ingredient to the soup of improvisational excellence. People are always going to be more talented, have better characters, think of faster 1-liners, but if you can outwork the world you will be the greatest improviser in America.