In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell mentions about how most people need roughly 10,000 hours of training at something before they are an expert. Despite my disagreeing with many of the book’s assertions, that was one statement I did not take issue with. I know that it takes dedication and hard work to achieve a goal. I’ve seen it, time and time again. The earliest known examples I was able to witness were (no surprise) related to my experiences as a basketball coach.

Many years ago I met a man named Rob Fodor while we were working at the same summer camp together as coaches. Rob had been a standout player in high school and college and was even drafted by his hometown Detroit Pistons. One thing you noticed right away about Rob was that he could shoot the basketball really well. The first time I saw him give a talk to the whole camp about shooting he spent the first ten minutes going through drills with just one hand (because if you can’t shoot with one, you can’t shoot with two, the second hand is just for balance anyway). So Rob would be out there warming up (and showing off) with one hand shots from all over the court and using both hands. He kept backing up until he would make half court shots with just one hand…either hand…

Part of Rob’s talk was about how long it took for him to become a good shooter. Not just good, actually, but so good he would be drafted by a pro team. That was his goal, he wanted to play professional basketball. And in order to be the best, Rob knew what needed to be done.

He needed to practice.

Rob would shoot 2,000 shots a day. He did 200 shots from 10 different spots on the floor. Know how long it takes to do 2,000 shots? Hours, that’s how long. But he did it, because he had a goal. But Rob knew something else, too.

See, Rob knew that there was some other kid that was shooting 2,000 shots a day as well. And that on some Friday night, that kid would go to the movies, and Rob would go do his 2,000 shots, and in Rob’s words:

I KNEW I WAS BEATING HIM!

And that gave Rob the incentive to do the same thing, over and over. His hard work would put him at a certain level of ability, and instead of going to the movies he would go practice and would then have the edge on those that chose to take the night off.

So why am I telling you this story?

If you want to be good at SQL Server, you gotta put in the hours. You can’t just go take an exam and expect that will make you a DBA. There is no substitute for experience. Right now, you and another database professional are of equal skill. Tonight they are going out for a bacon martini (or two). You are going to stay home and build some VMs in order to install the CTP3 of SQL2012  just so you can try out some new features.

Come tomorrow, guess who will have the edge on the other?

Trust me, the hard work will pay off in the long run, it always does.