02/18/2009 03:12 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Success by the Numbers

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Outliers, on the subject of success.

Gladwell makes the point that the reasons for outstanding success are less about talent or even brains, and more about culture or serendipity. For example, those children who are born at the beginning of a calendar year are disproportionately more likely to be successful athletes than children born at the end of the year. His theory is that these kids, even though only older by months, are generally bigger and stronger than other youngsters in youth athletic programs (tied to age groups). As a result, these kids get better coaching and more attention and, often thereby develop into the more successful athletes.

Gladwell also makes the point that to excel at anything one must invest 10,000 hours of practice. His number is somewhat arbitrary but his point is that until you have done something over and over thousands of times, you are never going to get really great at it.

I am not sure about all of Gladwell's theories but I have always felt that success in just about any endeavor is really a function of numbers. My thinking is that once one identifies what it is that is important to him or her, i.e. what he wants to be successful at, the rest is just investing the required hours to succeed.

For example, here are some of the numerical parameters which I feel are important in business:

# of hours engaged at exercise - exercise leads to stamina, a sense of well-being and mental sharpness. Therefore, I believe that those who want to be successful need to spend lots of hours exercising.

# of hours reading - whatever one's business, there is a lot to read about it. About the history, the trends, the personalities, the new ideas and opportunities. The more hours one spends engaged in study about his or her business, the higher the probability of success.

# of hours networking - no one can succeed today without engaging and relying on other people. So, the more people you connect with, the more people that know you (and hopefully trust you), the higher the probability of your success.

# of hours engaged in your endeavor - Gladwell believes that it takes 10,000 hours to get really really good at something. Whether you accept his number or not, the more hours you invest to become proficient at what you do, the higher the likelihood of success.

I am not suggesting that success is just a mathematical equation. On the other hand, I am firmly convinced that the more hours one spends engaged in building his or her physicality, knowledge, network and expertise the much greater the probability of high levels of success. It's actually a pretty simple formula.

Jim Randel is the founder and co-author of the Skinny On: series. His most recent book The Skinny On Credit Cards: How to Win the Credit Card Game is available at