The 10,000 Hour Theory And Songwriting

by Marty Dodson
Mar 3, 2024

The 10,000 hour theory…

I was reading a magazine on an airplane the other day and ran across an article about Dan McLaughlin, an Oregon man who quit his job and decided to try to become a golf pro by testing out the 10,000 hour theory made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”

Dan saved up $100,000. He rented out his home and got himself a cheap apartment so that this housing cost was nearly zero. And he began living very simply. He didn’t spend much on anything other than golf.

In the beginning, he thought it would take him about 5 years to reach the 10,000 hour mark. Mentally, he set aside six years. At the time of the article, he was 7 years in and still has 3600 hours to go.

His results have been fascinating.

He has, in fact gone from not ever having played golf to being a really good golfer. On good days, he shoots mid 70’s. On bad days, he shoots mid 80’s. His handicap hovers around 3. He would likely beat 99 of the golfers in the world on a good day.

One of his most interesting discoveries has been the law of diminishing returns. The more he has improved, the harder it is to get better. Going from bad to good is much easier than going from good to great. And going from great to world class is REALLY difficult. He says world class is “…rare territory. The line is thin but the gap is wide”

Will the next 3600 hours of practice propel Dan into the world class golfer category? Time will tell.
Ever since I started trying to write professionally, I’ve heard that Nashville is a “7 Year Town”. It makes sense. It takes most people about that long to get into the “great” or “world class” categories at anything. That’s about how long it takes to put in 10,000 hours.

Great songwriters will likely get some songs cut. World class writers will likely be able to make a career of it.

Either way, it’s probably going to take a good solid 10,000 hours to get there. And, once you become great, the biggest mountain to climb is that “world class” mountain looming up ahead.

If you want it, it will require sacrifice and dedication. But it can be done. I’m far from the most talented writer in Nashville, but I’ve put in my hours. My success has come from a relentless pursuit of a dream and a refusal to give up. That will take you a long way.

Write on!


Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


Write Better Songs Faster

Songwriting Success is Clay & Marty's 10-day video series that will help you level-up your songs and finish them faster. Enter your email address to get started!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.