10,000 hours of deliberate practice is what it takes to truly master a subject matter area or skill. It’s not surprising as we know practice makes perfect. But still many people seem amazed by geniuses that they assume were born with natural skill. Fact is we can all become masters at any skill or performance act.The idea dates back to work done by Herb Simon in the 1970s. It’s been developed and publicized much further in the decades since, notably by one of Simon’s postdoctoral mentees, Anders Ericsson. Their research suggested that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. What’s more, the people at the very top don’t just work much harder than everyone else. They work much much harder.
If you want to master a sport or a skill or a subject, 10,000 hours of practice, that comes to about 60 hours per week for about three and a half years. That’s true in all professions. It doesn’t mean you will make it. Certainly, good genes and the right experiences help. But look at Mozart. He didn’t just plop out of nowhere as some people think. He had the father and the training and did the 10,000 hours when he was 6 rather than 26, when most of us find our way in life. Earlier devotion, of course, does help the genius come out.
There are, of course, many provisos to the 10,000 hour rule. As just one example, to aquire mastery in an area, its not enough to just practice it for 10,000 hours, you must also always be striving to improve and get better. So hard work and constant improvement are the keys. Good to remember in a fast changing world that is more competitive and demands new skill mastery more and more often. No time to sit still.
Check out the Malcolm Gladwell interview as he highlights this idea in his new book “The Outliers”.