10,000 Hours To Mastery : Genius or Practice?

The 10000 Hour Rule

Posted by Steve on January 13, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Some of my earliest and fondest memories were of my mother playing the piano. Our house was filled with beautiful music many times as I came home from school. I would watch as she closed her eyes and her hands just knew exactly where to touch to create a symphony. It was magical…

Today, I’m watching my daughter Laura  put her head down and through countless hours of practice, produce some amazing original music and her own individual style.

My son Chris, who is a extremely talented artist and designer jokingly tells me “hey dad, I didn’t draw the Mona Lisa the first time I picked up the pencil, no in fact it was nothing but scribbles and doodles for a long time.”

Oh, and Laura will laugh as she says : “Well……Dad, my first songs kinda….sucked…”

In book Outliers, writer Malcolm Gladwell claims that it takes about ten thousand hrs of practice to achieve mastery in a field. How did Gladwell reach this conclusion? And, if this holds true, are there effective ways by which can we leverage this idea to achieve excellence in our occupations and lives?

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to learn effective ways by which they accomplished excellence. This article will evaluate a few instances from Gladwell’s study, and end with some ideas for moving forward.

Violins in Berlin

In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany studied violin students. Especially, they studied their practice habit routines in adulthood, teenage years, and childhood. All the targets were asked this question: “During your entire career, ever since you first got the violin, what number of hrs have you practiced?”.

All the violinists had actually started playing at roughly five years old with similar practice times.

Nevertheless, at age 8, practice times started to diverge. By age twenty, the most elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hrs of practice each, while the much less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

The “cream of the crop” had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

All-natural Talent: Not Important.

One interesting point of the research: No “naturally gifted” performers arised. If all-natural skill had played a function, we would certainly expect some of the “naturals” to drift to the best of the elite status with less practice hours compared to everyone else.

The psychologists located a direct statistical relationship between hrs of practice and achievement. No shortcuts and no “naturals”

Outliers by Malcom CaldwellBreaking the rules to write code

You might know exactly how Microsoft was launched. Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped out of college to develop the business in 1975. It’s that simple right?: 1.drop out of university, 2. start a company, and your a billionaire, Right? …Nope Wrong!

No, Gates and Allen had countless hours of programming practice prior to establishing Microsoft. The two co-founders met at Shore, an exclusive school in the Seattle area. The school raised three thousand dollars to purchase a computer system terminal for the school’s computer system club in 1968. A computer terminal at an university was unusual in 1968. Gates had access to a terminal in eighth grade. Gates and Allen promptly became addicted to programming.

The Gates family lived near the University of Washington. As a young adult, Gates “supplied” his programming addiction by sneaking from his mom and dads’ house after bed time to make use of the College’s computer. Gates and Allen got their 10,000 hrs with this and other crazy teen antics. When the time came to introduce Microsoft in 1975, both were well prepared.

Constant improvement trough practice.

In 1960, while they were still an unknown high school rock band, the Beatles visited Hamburg, Germany to play in the neighborhood clubs.

The group was underpaid. The acoustics were dreadful. The audiences were unappreciative. What did the Beatles get out of the Hamburg experience? Hours of playing time. Non-stop hrs of playing time that required them to get better. By 1962 they were playing 8 hrs per night, seven evenings each week. By 1964, the year they burst on the international scene, the Beatles had played over 1,200 concerts together. By way of comparison, many bands today don’t play 1,200 times in their entire career.

the 10000 hour rule to mastery

Loving Practice. Being Passionate

The elite don’t merely work harder than everyone else. At some time potential masters fall in love with practice to the point where they want to do little else.

The elite software program developer is the programmer who spends all day pounding code at work, and after leaving job she composes open source software on her own time.

The elite football player is the man who invests all day on the practice field with his teammates, and after practice he goes home to enjoy game films.

The excellent doctor hears medical podcasts in the automobile during a lengthy commute.

The elites are in love with exactly what they do, and at some time it no longer resembles work.

Into Action

Since we’ve seen trends uncovered by Gladwell’s research, what can we do about it? All of us want to be wonderful at something. Since we understand effective ways by which various other achievers have gotten there, what can we do to join their ranks?

One method is practice: We can pick an area and practice for 10,000 hrs. If we are currently operating in our target career, forty hrs weekly over five years would certainly give us ten thousand hours.

Or we can see this a different way,….Where have we already logged 10,000 hours of practice? What are we already really masterful at? Stop and think, sometimes when we fall in love with practice we don’t even know it!

If you’re running a company, exactly what does your business do better than anyone else? What is it that the individual participants of your business do better than anybody? And most important, exactly, How do you create an environment that gives everyone on your team the opportunity to practice?

In our family lives, how can we create an safe atmosphere where practice (and failing) is seen as a natural progression toward mastery?

Bringing it home

Life is difficult, Business is tough, particularly now. Also in the midst of a tough economy, there are individuals and business that flourish beyond all expectations. Practice plays a major part in that success.

Suggested Reading.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. With job interviews and analytical evaluation, Gladwell establishes why some organizations and individuals accomplish success far beyond their peers.

Suggested Listening

Ok, I’m partial on that one…my daughter Laura Maust!