What Your Child Has In Common With Mozart

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Every parent wants to see their child succeed. I’m sure if I told you there was a magic formula that guaranteed your child would succeed in the field of their passion, you’d encourage them in any way you possibly could.

That very formula applies to every prodigy, every genius, and every success in history. It applies to Mozart.

The one thing that every notable figure in our documented history have in common, is 10, 000 hours. That magic number, 10,000 hours of specific, dedicated practise, in the field of their passion is the difference between a tone deaf bull frog, and a world class soprano.

Mozart and Your Child

And that is what your child has in common with Mozart. That very same opportunity if he or she chooses to follow their passion, and dedicate their time and energy to 10 000 hours of constant and never ending improvement, that magic formula will hold as true for them as it has for ev,ery other “prodigy”.

What I’m telling you, is that there are no “natural” successes – inclination, passion, and encouragement may play a significant role, but it is those 10, 000 hours that determine their success.

This is a concept that is clearly outlined in Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success where he discusses that the path to success is not due to natural talent and luck, it is due to certain opportunities and the amount of time we apply to becoming successful.

What About Opportunity

Arguably, opportunities do play a part in success – but the wonderful thing about opportunity is that it is available for everyone and anyone to create. With enough determination and vision, we make our own paths and create our own opportunities.

Let’s look at a few examples of how the 10,000 hour theory works:

Gladwell cites a study performed in the 1990s by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson. Ericsson found that violin students divided themselves into 3 groups, average, good and elite.

The students who fell into the average group practised approximately 4000 hours over the lifetime of age 8-20.

The students who became good practised approximately 8000 hours over the lifetime of ages 8-20.

The world class soloists, the elite group practised (you guessed it) in excess of 10, 000 hours over the age of 8-20

Ericsson then went onto apply the same study to student pianists and found the same results appeared. The interesting thing that Ericsson’s study revealed was that there were no “naturals” in the group, who effortlessly became prodigal players. Every expert, every world class elite player put in the same 10, 000 hours of effort and practise.

Passion

So this goes on to suggest that anyone can be a success at what they’re passionate about; be it art, be it music, be it sport, be it academia – 10, 000 hours is that magic number.

If your child is passionate about something, and truly loves it, he or she will continue to indulge in their activity with enthusiasm and drive. If their vision and dreams are big enough and not discouraged, success is theirs.

Now, I hear you arguing that noteworthy people have opportunities presented to them that ordinary people can’t access. This could not be further from the truth. Noteworthy, successful people create opportunities that ordinary people are just as  capable of creating.

Mindset

There are personality traits that will define your success and failure too, but personality traits are simply a mindset, and mindset can be trained and altered. Passion, enthusiasm, determination, and faith in one’s self are what will drive us to create the opportunities we need to achieve our goals, and never take no for an answer.

Edison invented thousands of ways notto create a light bulb before he created one that worked – he never took no for an answer, his vision was always clear, and it was simply a matter of time (10, 000 hours perhaps!) until he succeeded.

Bill Gates had his school computer program shut down, and had to sneak out in the middle of the night to use the local university’s computer rooms to learn to program. During that time he racked up a phenomenal amount of programming hours (10, 000 of them in fact). People argue that Gates had a charmed life, and had opportunity presented to him…. I ask you, if you had the gall to sneak out and travel by bicycle, bus and foot to program in the wee hours of the morning, simply because you were passionate…?  If  your child was that passionate, would you encourage it?

A Cautionary Note

This is not a post to incite parents to push their children to practise endlessly at a task, childhood should be an exploration of imagination and excitement and passion. As parents we have the delicate responsibility to nurture and encourage our children to explore their potential, not force our own desires and expectations of success upon them. Rather, this is a post to highlight that if we choose to, and if we are passionate we have the same opportunities and chances as any other human being on our planet. It doesn’t matter where we begin in life, it is where we choose to be that counts.

Some of the most successful people in our history have overcome some of the most hideous adversities, some of the most average people amongst us have been fed off the “silver spoon” so to speak - so I emphasise again that we all have the same opportunities, and it is the individual who turns them into results.

Photo by: SWolfeNI8W

  • http://twitter.com/tiredmumof2 Donna Niemi-Barrett

    This was an interesting analysis, but I think to compare a child’s ability to become like Mozart is a bit far fetched. Also, to discount the notion that “there are no “natural” successes” is misguided.

    If a child dedicates 10,000 hours between the ages of 8 and 20, they can achieve the success of Mozart, one of the most prolific composers of all time? That’s doubtful at best. Perhaps they can become a success, but would hardly have the success of a gifted musician and composer who started his professional career at the age of FIVE.

    10,000 hours is approximately 8 years, so there is no way Mozart could have accomplished this number of hours practice by the time he began his professional life. Mozart started hearing music, probably from before birth since his father was a musician and court composer, but was introduced to it at the age of 3 when his sister began taking clavier lessons with their father. He did not start lessons himself until he was 4, and already had the natural ability to replicate a piece of music flawlessly. Then at the age of 5, he began composing his own music and playing professionally before royal courts. He went on to compose his first opera at the age of 12.

    It’s a nice notion for parents to be told that their children can be successful and there’s no magic formula and I believe that to be true. The comparison made to highly gifted people, such as Mozart, is going a bit too far though. Some basis in reality has to be maintained, and the likelihood of a child having the genius (or as some suspect was autism) of Mozart is not based in reality whatsoever. I’d love to say that my sons have the opportunity to become successful like Mozart, but that would be delusional on my part. They will become a success, to be sure, but they do not possess a gift like Wolfgang did. Even Joseph Haydn wrote about Mozart, “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.” So we may never see a talent like his again.

    I’ve spent many years studying Mozart and have a love of the man and his music. It is insulting to dismiss his true genius.

    • http://www.naturalparentingtips.com Kiera Pedley

      Hi, thanks for your thoughts. There’s a few things I’d like to point out about your comment however. It’s a little misguided.

      Firstly, while Mozart did begin playing and composing at age 5, many musical analysts concur that his father, Leopold Mozart was responsible for heavily editing and assisting with his early compositions. http://articles.cnn.com/2009-08-02/world/new.mozart_1_international-mozarteum-foundation-mozart-s-father-wolfgang-amadeus-mozart?_s=PM:WORLD
      Also, while it’s commonheld belief that Mozart composed music that was as complex and beautiful as the music we all recognise as genius, his early compositions were rudimentary and basic. Incredibly amazing for a young child, but basic compositions nonetheless.

      Some analysts have gone on to say that Mozart was a talented mimic of current musical trends, other have hailed his genius. Personally, I think his music is sublime – but his compositions as an adult reflect growth, study, practise, and utter dedication to his craft.

      To infer that it is impossible that such genius is not present today is naieve – we have so many talented and “gifted” musiscians internationally, who’s compositions rival Mozarts in complexity and quality. Saying that a talent like Mozart’s can never exist again is simply in my opinion intellectual snobbery.

      There are many children who can replicate music flawlessly at age 5 or under. It’s a rare but not unheard of gift.

      Also, let us consider the world’s population during Mozart’s time – with a population of half a billion (http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/worldhis.html) people, it would be very easy for a genius talent to shine – with few or no rivals. Today, our population is nearly 6.5 billion. Hayden could not possibly have conceived a world where one in a million means there are 65,000 others like you.

      So, based on Malcom Gladwell’s statistics that true mastery comes from 10,000 hours dedication and practise, I stand by my argument. And if your son’s are truly passionate about something – I hope you afford them the opportunity to develop their talent, rather than treat them with skepticism. You never know, you might have a future Mozart talent on your hands.

      I strongly recommend you read Gladwell’s tipping point – it’s a good read.

  • http://twitter.com/tiredmumof2 Donna Niemi-Barrett

    This was an interesting analysis, but I think to compare a child’s ability to become like Mozart is a bit far fetched. Also, to discount the notion that “there are no “natural” successes” is misguided.

    If a child dedicates 10,000 hours between the ages of 8 and 20, they can achieve the success of Mozart, one of the most prolific composers of all time? That’s doubtful at best. Perhaps they can become a success, but would hardly have the success of a gifted musician and composer who started his professional career at the age of FIVE.

    10,000 hours is approximately 8 years, so there is no way Mozart could have accomplished this number of hours practice by the time he began his professional life. Mozart started hearing music, probably from before birth since his father was a musician and court composer, but was introduced to it at the age of 3 when his sister began taking clavier lessons with their father. He did not start lessons himself until he was 4, and already had the natural ability to replicate a piece of music flawlessly. Then at the age of 5, he began composing his own music and playing professionally before royal courts. He went on to compose his first opera at the age of 12.

    It’s a nice notion for parents to be told that their children can be successful and there’s no magic formula and I believe that to be true. The comparison made to highly gifted people, such as Mozart, is going a bit too far though. Some basis in reality has to be maintained, and the likelihood of a child having the genius (or as some suspect was autism) of Mozart is not based in reality whatsoever. I’d love to say that my sons have the opportunity to become successful like Mozart, but that would be delusional on my part. They will become a success, to be sure, but they do not possess a gift like Wolfgang did. Even Joseph Haydn wrote about Mozart, “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.” So we may never see a talent like his again.

    I’ve spent many years studying Mozart and have a love of the man and his music. It is insulting to dismiss his true genius.

    • http://www.naturalparentingtips.com Kiera Pedley

      Hi, thanks for your thoughts. There’s a few things I’d like to point out about your comment however. It’s a little misguided.

      Firstly, while Mozart did begin playing and composing at age 5, many musical analysts concur that his father, Leopold Mozart was responsible for heavily editing and assisting with his early compositions. http://articles.cnn.com/2009-08-02/world/new.mozart_1_international-mozarteum-foundation-mozart-s-father-wolfgang-amadeus-mozart?_s=PM:WORLD
      Also, while it’s commonheld belief that Mozart composed music that was as complex and beautiful as the music we all recognise as genius, his early compositions were rudimentary and basic. Incredibly amazing for a young child, but basic compositions nonetheless.

      Some analysts have gone on to say that Mozart was a talented mimic of current musical trends, other have hailed his genius. Personally, I think his music is sublime – but his compositions as an adult reflect growth, study, practise, and utter dedication to his craft.

      To infer that it is impossible that such genius is not present today is naieve – we have so many talented and “gifted” musiscians internationally, who’s compositions rival Mozarts in complexity and quality. Saying that a talent like Mozart’s can never exist again is simply in my opinion intellectual snobbery.

      There are many children who can replicate music flawlessly at age 5 or under. It’s a rare but not unheard of gift.

      Also, let us consider the world’s population during Mozart’s time – with a population of half a billion (http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/worldhis.html) people, it would be very easy for a genius talent to shine – with few or no rivals. Today, our population is nearly 6.5 billion. Hayden could not possibly have conceived a world where one in a million means there are 65,000 others like you.

      So, based on Malcom Gladwell’s statistics that true mastery comes from 10,000 hours dedication and practise, I stand by my argument. And if your son’s are truly passionate about something – I hope you afford them the opportunity to develop their talent, rather than treat them with skepticism. You never know, you might have a future Mozart talent on your hands.

      I strongly recommend you read Gladwell’s tipping point – it’s a good read.