An Experiential Outlier (part 1)By
In Outliers, Gladwell writes that “researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” That is 10,000 hours of practice to get at some mastery level of proficiency. The author continues to share that this roughly breaks down to 10 years of experience. Some of his examples as well as simple calculations demonstrate that the experiential quota is viable in 5 to 6 years.
When considering missions, the 10,000 hour rule makes a lot of sense. Working in a cross-cultural context begins slow most of the time. The first year or years are usually spent in language and cultural acquisition. Being a student of language and culture is not over at that time, but it is well-advanced. Then more mission learning and experience are logged through a series of trials that are often associated with failure. Throughout all of this process relationships are being formed, history and trust are being built. Disciples are being made. Then after some period of time, those that have stuck it out will often begin to see some ways to advance their efforts have a foundation of key, healthy relationships, and have built requisite levels of trust to see healthy results.
In thinking through a number of relationships with M’s throughout Europe and beyond, I see that the 10,000 hour rule has a strong correlation with impact. With a range of paradigms and approaches, missionaries that have some 10 years of experience that is relevant to their culture and context are generally seeing greater results than those that do not have this level of experience.
Investing 10,000 hours in anything is not a guarantee for success, however. Some limiting factors seem to include:
- Moral (spiritual) failure;
- Living out or seeking to promote an ethnocentric worldview;
- Not investing in nationals;
- Not pursuing relationships with either non-believers or with nationals that are heavily involved in the lives of non-believers; and
- Placing emphasis on supervisory responsibilities.
There is more to come on this in some future posts, but I wanted to go ahead and throw the idea out there for stimulation and discussion.