The 10,000 hour rule
“I’m a winner” that’s my mentality and probably yours too. You’ve always wanted to be the best, maybe because you always took the L when you was younger or maybe that mentality has been instilled in you from an early age, whatever the case may be, in your eyes coming second in something is just as bad as coming last. Your motivation is to become the master of your craft whether that be football, playing an instrument or swimming, but how can you become an expert? Well keep reading and you might just become the next Lionel Messi, Stevie Wonder or Adam peaty.
What is the 10,000 hour rule?
In short the 10,000 hour rule is the idea that to master any skill you must dedicate 10,000 into practice.
So let’s put that in to perspective, how long is 10,000 hours? Well it’s about 417 days, you might be thinking that’s a walk in the park as it’s only just over a year but if you think about it, that would be impossible as you would not be able to sleep or do anything else as you would be using all the 24 hours in the day, so let’s be more realistic, you work and live a predominantly normal life but you want to improve so you devote 3 hours a day to your passion. It would take you 3333 days which is a little over 9 years, this helps us to understand how long it takes to become an expert at something.
Where did the 10,000 hour rule come from?
The 10,000 hour rule became popular after the release of Malcom Gladwell’s book outliers: The story of success. Where he delves deep in to why and what people do to become successful, there is a range of ideas that Mr Gladwell looks over, from, when you was born to where you grew up but today’s blog is about the 10,000 hour rule. In the book outliers Malcolm Gladwell credits the success of Bill Gates and the Beatles to the amount of hours they put into their craft, he learnt about this theory from the research (deliberate practice) of Anders Ericsson who is a Swedish psychologist and Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University and is internationally recognized as a researcher in the psychological nature of expertise and human performance. The research suggested that to become “the best” in domains such as music, chess, medicine and sport you have to dedicate at least 10,000 hours to it. You might be wondering…
what is deliberate practice?
Practice makes perfect… well does it? Practice is basically repetition, kind of like a habit, so if we learn something over and over again, it will become natural to us, but what if you’re learning the wrong thing, you could be spending all this time on something that isn’t helping you improve or maybe even making you worse! This is where deliberate practice comes in, this is when your practice is designed to be purposeful and systematic, this means that you need to break down the skills you want to practice into all different attributes and then focus your attention on improving your performance step by step. Here’s some steps you can take to practice more efficiently:
- Clear goals: before you start practicing, you should have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish. Your goal has to be specific and measurable so you can keep on track and know if you're reaching your targets.
- Break it down: When you clarify what you want to accomplish in step 1 this makes it a lot easier to achieve but one way you can make it even easier is by breaking it down in to even smaller tasks. You can learn more about this in our 80/20 rule blog by clicking here.
- Keep track: As we mentioned in step 1 it's a great idea to measure your progress and the way to do this is by keeping track. There's many ways of doing this, one way is to type into your app store "the skill you're trying to learn" and then tracker, for example "running tracker".
- Feedback: This is best if you have some sort of coach as they will have a better perspective, but you can do this on your own, so linking from the last step using your tracking method/coach look for imperfection or areas where you could improve, then during your next session implement the strategies to help before you develop any bad habits.
- Eliminate distractions: This one might be obvious but you don't want anything to take you away from what you're trying to achieve. just follow the basic rules of no phone, ask people to leave you alone (politely of course), take breaks.
- Accountability: A great way to make sure you achieve your goals is by being accountable for your own outcomes, you can do this by using apps like Beeminder which you can learn about by reading this blog. Practice can sometimes get tiresome so it can be a great idea to have an accountability partner which is basically a gym buddy, this can help on them long dark nights when motivation may be low.
A great way to make your practice more efficient is to have a mentor or coach, this is because it allows you to have someone to guide you through the process on a deeper level with their expertise, not only that, they can give you productive feedback which is a great way to enhance your performance. This shows us that it’s not all about the length of time that we put in to practice, but how we practice, which poses the question…
Is the 10,000 hour rule true?
Before we look into the answer for this question, there is no doubt in my mind that to become successful at something you are going to have to work hard. No matter how many people try and sell cough* tell you these “get rich quick” and “how to become successful in two seconds” schemes, you’re going to have to work hard. Malcolm Gladwell’s book (outliers) claims that to become a master you have to dedicate 10,000 hours to practice however that is to broad of a term to be taken literally, if this was to be the case everyone that puts ten thousand hours into something would be an expert and we know that’s not true, also the research that Malcolm based his theory of was only a study on violinist’s so does that mean you can generalize that to other skills? Anders Ericsson also claims that Malcolm Gladwell may have miss-understood his research, as the “10,000 hours” was an average, so 10,000 hours isn’t the “magic number” to become an expert and should be used more as a guideline. To say you have to devote 10,000 hours to practice to become a master may bring someone to overworking and ultimately burning out. I think the key thing that you need to take away from Anders Ericsson and Malcolm Gladwell’s work is that success is made! We are not born as a master of any skill, you need to use a growth mindset to become the best person you can become and you are not defined by your genetics. I’ll leave you with this quote.
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