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business | November 30, 2018

Does El Chapo’s Rise Prove the 10 Thousand Hour-Rule of Success?

Malcom Gladwell proved 10 thousand hours of practice were needed to become a breakout business Rockstar in his book Outliers.

Ever since I’ve read his book I’m am always looking for more examples to support his theory.

After watching Narcos on Netflix I am convinced El Chapo’s supports the 10,000 rule!

The 10 Thousand Hour Rule

One of the core principals of the 10 thousand hour-rule of success, as I understand it, predicts that breakout performance in nearly any field of human endeavor requires 10,000 hours of practice to build experience. This means that it’s nearly impossible for someone to jump in to something and become and overnight success!

This principal implies that you can look at the progress of individuals in nearly any industry and almost predict the few who are near to acquiring their 10 thousand hours of practice needed to succeed. This means there are only a few true innovators that could ever have the proper experience needed to be an Outlier.

This means that if we look at the rise of El Chapo we should find that he was nearly destined to become the next Captain of the Mexican Drug Cartel.

Was El Chapo an Upstart?

What struck me when I watched the latest Narcos show on Netflix is that El Chapo worked for Felix Gallardo when he was building the first Mexican cartel. He was first seen as a driver for drug bosses but as the series progress El Chapo seems grow increasingly important to the Gallardo organization. In the end he was sitting at the table of his Bosses showing that he had become a recognized Boss in the cartel before he ever got on Forbes Billionaire list.

However, El Chapo didn’t work his way up in the cartel from the mail room but rather started out running his own criminal drug operation early in his career. This proves that he was already well on his way to getting his 10 thousand hours of experience before his talent caught the eye of Felix Gallardo.

Was El Chapo an Outlier?

The proof that El Chapo was a true break out innovator was the fact that he pioneered the art of building tunnels to transport drugs into the United States. He was able to escape capture many times by relying on his ingenious tunnels.

He also learned to make alliances at every level of law enforcement to protect his drug empire and even made political alliances at the top levels of the Mexican government. This demonstrates that El Chapo had gained the experience at every level of the game from growing, transporting, managing, bribing etc… At the time Felix was extradited there was perhaps only a scant few individuals in the cartel, that could have taken over the reins of power and succeeded.

However, the fact that El Chapo became one of the richest men in the world, through drug trafficking, proves he reached the break out phase of an outlier and graduated from his 10,000 hours of practice.


As it turns out El Chapo’s Rise to Power in the Sinaloa Cartel does in fact add more weight to the 10 Thousand Hour-Rule of Success! We know this because he was not an upstart that suddenly became an overnight success in the drug trafficking business. To the contrary, he started his own small cartel at a young age proving his ambition and learning all facets of the drug trade before he caught the eye of Felix Gallardo who finished his training with hands on training running the largest Cartel in Mexico. If you have not started your 10 Thousand Hours of practice journey, then it’s time to get started because you would have a better chance of getting hit by lighting than becoming an overnight success!

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