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Ten Thousand Hours to Outliers' Success

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The idea that we need 10,000 hours to achieve proficiency in anything we take on is an interesting one. In the early 1990s, K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues researched the students from the Academy of Music in Berlin, and learned that the highest achieving students had gradually increased their practice over time until they had logged in approx. 10,000 hours. The good students had logged in about 8,000 hours, and the mediocre had totaled about 4,000 hours.

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Our contemporary sociologist Malcolm Gladwell used Ericsson's research to develop the theory of 10,000 hours. He argues that it is the amount of hours that separates the merely good from the really great. His book Outliers: The Story of Success is a vivid exploration of one question: what makes some individuals so successful?

Whether these calculations are correct or not, there must be some truth to this concept. Studies suggest that success in any field has not much to do with talent; people don't just float effortlessly to the top. It's all about practice, 10,000 hours of it - 20 hours a week for 10 years, or a full-time job for 5 years.

On the surface, this rule can be intimidating or discouraging. Not everyone can be like the young Mozart, practicing music with ferocious intensity, or like obsessed-with-programming Bill Gates. How can an average Joe match this level of devotion? What are some elements that help achieve mastery in any field?

According to Gladwell the key elements of success are:

  1. Working much harder than your peers.
  2. Practice is not enough. You have to constantly strive to beat your record and outdo your performance.
  3. Looking for things that others can't see.
  4. Finding a good fit for yourself that takes your background and cultural legacy into account.

Gladwell writes, "Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good." Whether you really have to put in exactly 10,000 hours or not, it all comes down to time and dedication.

Gladwell is not the only one believing in the rule. Geoff Colvin writes about it in his book, Talent Is Overrated.

What have you spent 10,000 hours on that would label you an expert? Hopefully, the answer is not 'playing a computer game' or 'watching TV'.

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Disclaimer: For entertainment purpose only; No professional advice intended; Please seek professional advice before making any changes; Publishers make no profits from the sales of products recommended, unless disclosed explicitly here. Some links are affiliate links. See terms.

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