The Road to Greatness

bruce lee sketch“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” -Bruce Lee

Malcolm Gladwell concluded through his research that it takes 10,000 hours of training to master a skill.  The reason 10,000 is such a magic number is because it illustrates just how much goes into mastering a skill.

How many hours have you trained total?  Probably not as much as you think.  A rough estimation of my time training in martial arts is around 2,600 hours (includes regular class time, testings, tournaments, training on my own, and workshops/seminars).

How many kicks have you thrown?  Again, it’s probably less than you’d think.

Now to let you in on the little secret of the magic 10,000 rule…

10,000 hours without __________ is a complete waste of time.

10,000 kicks without __________ is a monumental waste of energy.

So what’s the secret?

It goes beyond flexibility, power, or proper technique.

Without it, nothing else is possible.

Do you know what it is?  Go on and guess… I’ll wait…


 If you’re coming out of class without a drop of sweat, then you’re not putting forth effort.  Without true effort – that level of exertion that leaves you hunched over and gasping for breath – you won’t grow.  You won’t get better.  You won’t be stronger.

If you don’t put in the effort then don’t complain about the results. 

“But it’s hard.”

Nothing worth attaining in life is ever easy.  It requires work and time.  It demands your blood, sweat, and tears.  If you’re not willing to fulfill those requirements, then you do not deserve the rewards.

Effort isn’t popular.  It’s old school.  We want our cake and we want to eat it too.  We want hacks to get there faster.  We complain because it takes so long.  We think sweat equity can be supplanted with tricks and secret training techniques.

You can plan and tweak your training regimen to get the greatest results.  You can use the tricks and hacks to get a head start.  But at the end of the day, this one rule still reigns supreme…

Effort can’t be replaced.

Put on your belt and take a good look in the mirror.  What do you see?  Do you see someone who’s earned that belt?

Or do you see a fraud?

Did you just bide your time and pay your dues?

Do you just coast through class and hope no one notices?  Well guess what…

It doesn’t matter who notices.

Even if no one notices, you’re still missing the point of training.  You come to class to get better.  If you’re not trying to get better, then why are you there?

You’re wasting your time.

You’re wasting the instructor’s time.

You’re wasting your fellow students’ time.

Are you a time waster?

If so… it’s time to make a decision…

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle


6 thoughts on “The Road to Greatness

  1. This is very true. I once read that the Beatles played about 10,000 hours worth of shows in Germany and other parts of Europe before they even really got famous for it. As a self taught guitar player, it took me years of consistent work to be able to play well enough to be in a classic metal band.

    But that’s the point…it could take years, but the results are what matter.

    • Very interesting. Did not know that about the Beatles.

      Most people don’t know or appreciate the sheer magnitude that 10,000 hours represents. If you trained 24/7, it would take you 1.14 years to become a “Master” in your field. How many people do you know that give up because they can’t make it work in a couple months?

      I have been practicing martial arts for 15 years and am a 5th degree black belt in Taekwondo. A VERY generous estimation of the time I’ve spent practicing is 3000 hours. My official title is “Master” but to me it just doesn’t feel quite right. There’s always more to learn.

  2. I really enjoyed the article. It’s right on point for anyone driven towards their goals.

    I thought you might be interested in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s similar comment in his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding:

    “A young bodybuilder once came over to me while I was doing Standing Calf Raises and told me how much he admired my calf development. ‘You can have calves just as good,’ I told him, ‘if you are willing to pay the price.’ He looked puzzled and asked me what I meant. ‘Calves like this will cost you five hundred hours,’ I said. ‘Anything less and you won’t get the results.'”

    “If you analyze that 500-hour figure you get: 500 hours equals more than 660 45-minute calf workouts; 660 divided by six workouts a week equals about 110 weeks or over two years! So, unless you are genetically gifted like a Chris Dickerson and were born with magnificent calves, building them up takes a minimum of two years of brutal training.”

    “Even with that effort, calves may not turn out to be your best body part. But I doubt there are many bodybuilders with enough physical talent to build up the rest of their bodies who will not find their calves responding well to the regimen I prescribe.”

    “The first thing I did was to cut off the bottoms of my training pants. Now my calves were exposed for me and everyone else to see. If they were underdeveloped–and they were–there was no hiding the fact. And the only way I could change the situation was to train my calves so hard and so intensely that the back of my legs would come to resemble huge boulders.”

    “At first, this was embarrassing. The other bodybuilders in the gym could see my weakness and they constantly made comments. But the plan eventually paid off. No longer able to ignore my calves, I was determined to build them into one of my best body parts. Psychologically, it was a brutal way to accomplish this, but it worked, and that is what I really cared about. Within one year my calves grew tremendously, and the comments I got in the gym were complimentary rather than critical.”

    • Good quotes! I’ve heard the story about him cutting off the bottoms of his training pants, but not some of these other ones. People nowadays hate to hear the truth that anything worth achieving is going to take years of brutal effort and single-minded dedication to achieve. But here’s the kicker. If you DO stick with it, it will automatically put you above 90% of others who have never even attempted it. Thanks for sharing these quotes!

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