There was a time when I thought rockstars were lucky. I believed they were just born under the right star. As time went by and I read more and more about the path to success for almost every successful band and artist it became quite apparent that their talent and success was actually the result a lot of work. As AC/DC said “Its a long way to the top if you want to Rock n Roll.” Author Malcolm Gladwell popularised what is known as the 10,000 hour rule which basically says that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in a given area. While this rule is a little hard to measure let alone prove it would seem that The Beatles, Hendrix and Van Halen all had spent at least 10,000 hours perfecting their craft prior to international success.
The Beatles: They started out like any other band and to many seemed like an overnight success but the real story prior to Beatlemania shows the enormous amount of hours that went into creating the most successful band of all time. For years the Fab Four slugged it out night after night sometimes for 8 hours at a time in clubs in night clubs in the UK and Hamburg Germany. They would travel from Liverpool sometimes in freezing conditions to perform all night. Some say no band equalled The Beatles in terms of hours spent on stage during that period. Their success only came after thousands of hours of on stage performance.
Jimi Hendrix: Jimi actually began his guitar playing with a broomstick. When he finally did get a guitar he practiced obsessively and apparently even slept with his guitar. Jimi lived in Seattle and would go to see every guitarist he could taking his guitar to gigs with him and asking the guitarist to show him his licks and tricks. While a shy kid he was not backward in approaching these guitar players for advice. Jimi always knew he wanted to be on the stage and took every opportunity to play. While shy off stage on stage he would completely transform. At one point he managed to get a gig with Little Richard who at the time was a star but he got fired because he was stealing the spotlight. Eventually Jimi was discovered by Linda Keith (Keith Richard’s girlfriend at the time) in a New York club who in turn introduced him to Chas Chandler who took Hendrix to the UK where he met Clapton and others. By that time Jimi had spent thousands of hours developing his guitar playing and was a season performer. He would have done more than 10,000 hours of guitar practice by that time.
Van Halen: Eddie and Alex practiced their instruments for hours and hours everyday as kids. When they arrived in the US from Holland they could not speak English so this meant it was difficult to mix with other kids in their neighbourhood. Originally Eddie played drums and Alex guitar but they soon swapped. A close friend said in an interview that they were always inside practicing. When they finally started performing they played mostly parties in and around Pasadena California and were willing to play anywhere and everywhere often risking being arrested due to noise violations. Van Halen became popular and the parties they played sometimes had 2000+ people turning up. They soon landed a gig at a well known venue in Hollywood and their audiences continued to grow. What separated Van Halen from most bands at the time was they amount of time they spent on stage. They played almost every night for years.
Conclusion: The 10,000 hour rule does appear to be a common denominator. While there are never any guarantees determination, persistence and hard work seem to be basic requirements of success. Luck does perhaps play a role but if you are persistence the odds of luck turning up are greatly increased.
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