I enjoyed reading this article, Mark. I thought it set out the different positions really succinctly. I don't know about other fields, but in education (or at least education in the UK), the 10,000 hour rule suffers from a double whammy.

Firstly, you have the original thesis by Gladwell, which is either a misinterpretation or, being generous, a catchy oversimplification of the research for popular consumption.

Secondly, some educators in the UK seem to regard the 10,000 hours rule as set in stone, thereby inadvertently misleading their students.

It reminds me of the craze of adopting a growth mindset. Lots of schools have done so, and yet Carol Dweck, who first wrote about it, said a few years ago that she had never come across a school that had actually adopted it.

I also think there is not enough emphasis placed on aptitude. For example, I am useless as DIY, but not too bad at writing. Therefore when we need decorating done, it makes more sense for me to write some articles in order to earn money to pay a professional decorator. The job is done twice as well in half the time. I am pretty certain that my spending 10,000 hours learning how to do DIY would be a waste of time -- not least because I find the whole thing unbelievably boring.

For what it's worth, my take on the 10,000 hours rule is that:

* Becoming an expert takes a lot of practice, training, and dedication.

* Directed practice is essential. To my mind, spending 10,000 hours (or whatever) practising the same task doesn't equate to 10,000 hours of practice, but one hour repeated 10,000 times!

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This is a very true comment:

"The true road to mastery is built on habits and routines".

I completely agree with you, achieving that incremental change that takes you to the top 5% is heavily dependanr on strict routines and effective habits.

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Aug 17, 2022Liked by Mark Dykeman

I wonder if the 10000 hour rule is just a different way of describing impostor syndrome.

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Fascinating, Mark: I really enjoyed your analysis.

I remember watching a ceramic artist at an art show throw some clay onto a wheel. He was asked by someone pointing at one of his large finished bowls: 'How long did it take you to make that?'

'Five minutes and thirty years' was the reply.

I LOVED this. I was a glass artist for nearly fifteen years, and I would use a similar response with my students on my courses.

Of course any amount of practice makes a difference, and we shouldn't only think about practice making PERFECT. Practice can make IMPROVEMENT any day of the week!

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Mark, I'm glad you shared this piece today. I think the big takeaway from Gladwell's book (for me) was simply to focus more on deliberate practice, something that "experts" in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu already know full well. Still, applying these concepts (not 10,000 hours, but focusing more on deliberate practice) has borne some great fruit over the years in other disciplines (including aspects of running a business).

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Aug 21, 2022·edited Aug 21, 2022Liked by Mark Dykeman

Thanks for the post, Mark. I appreciate the way you include mention of coaching, financial resources, and personal obligations. I chose not to read the book (didn't fit in my 10K, haha), but I have thoughts in general based on the discussion at the time and since. I think this sort of conception can be useful as a corrective to the romantic idea of "talent." I have a colleague who emphasizes that he has had to do tons of work —whatever his natural gifts — to develop his craft. Or the big number can also help one to plan ahead in a general way, or to look back and appreciate her determination and accomplishment.

Beyond that, though, I find the actuarial approach alienating. Temporal micro-dosing. I'd rather think of the way learning a skill fits into life than picture counting small units. I like to think about the wisdom one can acquire in learning a skill, craft, vocation, etc., and it seems harder to picture the lifespan if we imagine a spreadsheet with 10,000 boxes. The violin example shows this: of course an expert violinist is going to play for 10K hours to hone her skill! But it comes about organically, as one takes lessons, performs, and so on. It's not just a fee-for-success. To me it brings up discomfort and worry about time (many of us have enough of that already) and is overly transactional. there is no guarantee that if we put our quarter in the candy machine that the jawbreaker we want most will come out.

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A very interesting article and one that certainly rang true ... for years I've wanted to learn to play the guitar. For my birthday several years ago I was given a guitar and lessons - and I went to them religiously and practised, too. But circumstances got in the way and the regularity dropped ... and now I can't play it at all (though I hope to pick it up again). 10000 hours sounds great ... but where do they come from?

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Nice post, Mark. Made me think of another tack on the development of genius/expertise/talent: David Epstein's Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Another fascinating book, and one that seems to have more depth than Gladwell's. (But, fair warning: I am a hopeless generalist!) I grabbed my copy and looked to see if Epstein had referred to Gladwell. Nope, not in the index. The 10,000 hour rule is paradoxical for me -- it could be a means to attain a goal, but it also might also be a signal of a deeper motivation or a talent that's already present, seeking expression in the practice.

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A factor I never see mentioned in these discussion is what I would call unflagging interest. I have got interested in all kinds of things over the course of my life: music, painting, drawing, computer programming, sports cars, and more. But my interest in all of them flagged before I got anywhere close to mastery (or even competence, in most cases). But my interest in writing has never flagged. I don't know how to account for this. It's the most lonely and frustrating of avocations. And yet, my interest in it never wanes. Whatever the magic number of hours may be, I think you are bound to meet it if you have unflagging interest in something, and certain not to if you don't.

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It's sad that people take the 10000 hours thing as an obstacle. When I first heard it I understood it as, "at this point in my life I am still a beginner." It helped give myself some grace while I hunkered down and worked on the 10000 hours of becoming a video editor.

Eventually the 10000 hours stopped being relevant because I went professional and was just spending my days getting the job done. I don't know how many hours I have under my belt anymore.

"Achieving mastery" also kinda dropped off the radar of motivation. I read a bunch of other video editors saying things like "Every day I try to learn something new" or "each project I push myself further!" and that just sounds exhausting. I'm still just wanting to get my own personal projects together!

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it *is* ok to be ok, and to practice because you enjoy something and have no realistic expectation of being the best. at 50 and two years into piano studies, i'm never going to perform at carnegie hall but every day i'm better than i was before. i may not even make it to 10,000 hours! but that doesn't make it worthless. and i realize no one is saying that . but throwing out numbers like 10,000 hours or whatever, can discourage people from even trying.

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I am glad you reposted this. Either I missed it the first time or forgot what I read. We reread books, so why not reread newsletters? Take care.

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I enjoyed this nuanced take on aspects underlying or missing from the 10000 hours theory, thank you! Agreed that deliberate practice can likely lower that threshold. I mean, 10000 hours of deliberate practice would probably leave me passed out on the side of the road :-) Does the 10000 hours also include hours spent just thinking about the skill, visualizing a performance or free-form daydreaming about it?

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