As a business owner, how many hours have you put into developing your commercial skills?

Malcolm Gladwell said, in his bestseller book ‘Outliers’, that 10,000 hours of practice can make you an expert in pretty much anything.

As an advocate of Gladwell’s theory, I was intrigued to watch Jane McGonigal’s excellent Ted Talk ‘Gaming can make a better world.’  Her talk pointed out that gamers easily spend 10k hours gaming – her question was, what were they becoming good at?

How can gamers harness their quick-fire skills to help save the real world instead of a virtual one?


Even though it was filmed in 2010, Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk makes some interesting points relevant to us today. Her observations struck a chord with me.  As business owners, we easily spend 10,000 hours trying to create profitable and successful businesses.

Interesting fact: 10,000 hours is equal to about 1 year and 51 days total

Sometimes, like gamers, we need to be reminded to think of new strategies on how to ‘capture the flag’.  

How to apply Gamer tactics to your business

Here’s my variation, on McGonigal’s theme, of how business owners could take some inspiration based on the success of gamers.  

1. Urgent Optimism – you wouldn’t play a game if you didn’t think that there was a reasonable chance that you might win.  The same thing applies to your business.  You didn’t set up your business if you didn’t think you were in with a shout of making money and a better life for you and your family.

2. Social Trust – gamers learn to build trust and rapport with other characters whilst playing games, which helps to develop an understanding of their world and the importance of teamwork.  The old saying ‘people buy people’ endorses our relationship with trust.  We want our customers to trust us, what we do and what we make.

3. Blissful Productivity – that moment you realise that 4 hours went by in a flash of productivity!  If we can recreate this sense of purpose in our businesses we will not only enjoy what we’re doing but we’ll become better at it and achieve more (a great example of the 10,000 hours principle)

4. Epic Meaning – gaming fans are enthralled by the virtual world they’re playing in. Intricate histories, character traits, nuance and meaning become entrenched in the way they play the game.  By immersing our customers in our business and ourselves in our customers’ stories, origins and pathways, we have an opportunity to give meaning to what we’re trying to achieve in our ‘world’.

Acting like gamers in a bonkers world

Any of us could be forgiven for looking on the gloomy side lately:

  • the desperately horrific situation in Ukraine
  • the cost of living crisis
  • the extortionate rise in electricity, gas and petrol/diesel prices
  • political unrest,

The list goes on …

But taking a moment to regularly regroup, develop new approaches and examine our ‘game’ as business owners is the way we transform our 10,000 hours of practice into expert-led success.  We might even save the planet along the way!

That might seem a lofty notion but it’s important that, as Gladwell points out, “practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good, it’s the thing you do that makes you good.”   Perhaps acting like gamers in identifying threats, weighing up the risks, rearranging our troops, establishing strong communication lines and using technology to gain an advantage, isn’t so different from sensible business planning.

The difference, though, can be seen when you look at the obsessive enthusiasm of the gaming community.  There are dedicated Twitch streams where you can just watch your favourite gamer playing the game they’ve been perfecting over multiple 10,000 hours.  This is no amateur sport either.  Ninja, one of Twitch’s most popular streamers, was confirmed to have made $1,378,791.48 between August 2019 and October 2021

10,000 hours practice is all very well but you, me and Ninja aren’t going to make seriously good money without marketing ourselves.  If no-one knows about our expertise, no one is going to show up.  So whether you’re a serious gamer on Twitch or a business owner, you’ve got to put in the work.

If you haven’t discovered Ted Talks it’s a remarkable treasure trove of thought provoking content.  I’d love to know which talks have inspired you.