An accounting phrase, I am told. Simply meaning that if you don’t pay attention to ‘the ones’ and let them slide, thinking they’re so small and therefore not worth worrying about, you one day look back and realise that over time they added up to a significant sum that’s now become a problem.

Ex-Smokers understand this. As each day passes, the number of cigarettes they haven’t smoked, soon amounts to a very impressive sum.


While I have no idea what it’s officially called on the interwebs, I overheard someone talking about starting 1 Jan with one push up and then adding just one extra one, each and every day, for a year. Sounds simple enough, right? How difficult can it be, I thought to myself? Start with 1 on day 1, and by 31 January I’d only be doing 31. I can do 31 push ups in a day I thought to myself.

And I was right. January was a breeze. I felt like I was slowly becoming an older version of a younger Arnold Schwarzenegger.

February rolled on, and I was feeling incredible and invincible. I’d even convinced 3 or 4 friends to join me, all of us with the same positive outlook. Add an extra push up a day, your body gets stronger as you go, and before long you’ve earned the top half body of a god!

Then March arrived, and I had moved into the 60 on my way to 90 per day bracket. The ones were definitely adding up far faster than my body was getting stronger. My god-like top half was crying out to me every morning, begging me to stop this stupidity. As I reflect back, there hasn’t been a day since mid-March that I haven’t been stiff and/or sore as I begin my sets each morning.


For those of you wondering how the numbers evolve, it looks something like this….

push up challenge

Yup. I’ve completed 5 050 push ups since 1 January, and have another 62 000 to go. While my average today is 50.5 per day, I’ll end up with an average of 183.5 by 31 December. If I’d done this maths on 1 January, I’m not certain I’d still be pushing up on 9 April.

And that’s the problem with the 10 000 Hours Rule!


I remember a conversation with a Russian Mathematician many years ago, in a workshop I was running on Talent in the Workplace, with Standard Bank and GIBS. We were talking about Malcolm Gladwell’s Rule of 10 000 Hours in his book Outliers.

Throughout his book, Gladwell repeatedly refers to the ’10 000-hour rule,’ asserting that the key to achieving true expertise in any skill is simply a matter of practicing, albeit in the correct way, for at least 10 000 hours.

His view was, that it’s almost impossible to do 10 000 hours looking forward. He suggested that if you had to challenge someone to put in 10 000 hours of anything, to become a world class whatever it was, and they did the maths to understand how enormous the commitment was going to be, they’d probably give up before they started. He believed that most people who complete 10 000 hours to become world class, didn’t understand what it would involve up front. Rather, they woke up one morning and realised that they’d arrived, and 10 000 hours was what it took.


I have no idea where that leaves me. I’m 20% along my adventure timeline, and now that I have the maths I’m certainly more afraid and dubious than I was yesterday. Still I reckon I can keep the top half of my body going a month or two more. Perhaps by then a little Arnie magic will have emerged. Who knows? I’ll keep you posted 🙂