Want to be phenomenal at something? Do you have 10,000 hours to devote to it? That’s what it takes to be really awesome. Well, that and some opportunities and luck.
I’ve been reading the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, and that’s the finding he’s uncovered so far. To be really great at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours practicing it!
There are other factors to success such as birth date/year and luck, but for today, we simply look at his findings regarding the 10,000 hour mark. 10,000 hours takes essentially 10 years to complete.
The information in this book is amazing. The studies they conducted, the amount of people in each study, the amount of time they devoted to each study… and I’m only on chapter 2! Most notable to me at this point in the book is that as folks take on some task, hobby, sport… the beginning for all players within a particular activity consists of about the same amount of time. But this does not continue to be true for long.
In one study that was noted in the book, researcher K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues from Berlin’s elite Academy of Music examined what made the difference in world class violinists, good players, and public school violin teachers. The researchers, along with the professors in the music school separated the students into the three respective groups.
The amazing finding was that, “Everyone from all three groups started playing at roughly the same age, around five years old. In those first few years, everyone practiced roughly the same amount, about two or three hours a week. But when the students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge. The students who would end up the best in their class began to practice more than everyone else: six hours a week by age nine, eight hours a week by age twelve, sixteen hours a week by age fourteen, and up and up until by the age of twenty they were practicing– that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better–well over thirty hours a week. In fact, by the age of twenty, the elite performers had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice. By contrast, the merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers had totaled just over four thousand hours.”
The really interesting thing is that this is not just the case for musicians. Daniel Levitin, neurologist, writes “In study after study of composers, basketball players, fictional writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”
Gladwell pulls examples from music, sports, technology… the similarities of top performers in any circle certainly include practicing for 10,000 hours. As Gladwell states, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” May seem obvious: practice, practice, practice- but the depth and explanation of this phenomena that Gladwell shares is totally worth checking out for yourself.
As one of my colleagues said, “Makes you revisit drill and practice.” Hmm, wonder what implications this could have for education? Just food for thought. Nothing concrete here, as I said, I’m only on chapter 2. Want to know more? I highly recommend you give this book a read. Fascinating stuff!