I heard about this book a few years ago from my friend Lester Pardoe, who was a cycling coach at the time. Based on research done by Herb Simon in the 1970’s, Malcom Gladwell asserted in his book “Outliers” that 10,000 of practice was the standard amount of time it took to master a skill. Not just be good at it, to really be one of the best in the field. In this article referring to their new book, Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool dig in deep and come out on the other side, saying that this magical number of 10,000 hours is only loosely based on reality.
“there is nothing special or magical about ten thousand hours. Gladwell could just as easily have mentioned the average amount of time the best violin students had practiced by the time they were eighteen — approximately seventy-four hundred hours — but he chose to refer to the total practice time they had accumulated by the time they were twenty, because it was a nice round number.”
They also talk about the type of practice. All practice is not created equal. Rote repetition is just the beginners version of practice. Deliberate practice that involves goal setting, analytical skills and deliberate thought and engagement (read: the OPPOSITE of rote repetition) is the exercise of really mastering a skill. Many athletes and musicians use visualization techniques. I read a book called “Psychocybernetics” that talked about how visualization of an action can actually have the same effect on aptitude as actually physically engaging in the action. This isn’t even that groundbreaking and new- the book was written in 1989! Tiger Woods just one professional athlete known for his use of visualization training.
I remember watching a TED talk or maybe it was the book “Blink” , where the speaker was talking about speed reading. They had two groups of people, the first was people with average reading speed and the second was a group that was slightly above average in reading speed. They were all given the same training about speed reading and then issued a test. The people in the first group did show some improvement, a nearly 20% increase in reading speed and comprehension. The people the second group also improved, but instead of 20% (which is impressive) their improvement was nearly 65%. The author surmised that because of their natural aptitude, the learning curve was enhanced.
Maybe the “follow your bliss” people have a point here. As airy-fairy as it might sound, it’s probably a better use of your time to train in something that you have a natural aptitude and fondness for. In addition, it will likely lower your stress levels and prevent burnout.
“Outliers” – Malcom Gladwell
“Blink”– Malcom Gladwell
“Peak: The New Science of Expertise “- Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool