In the book ‘Outliers’, the author Malcolm Gladwell mentions the ‘10,000-Hour Rule’, claiming that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.

The 10,000 hour rule was developed by Anders Ericsson (a Professor at the University of Colorado) in 1993. His paper called ‘The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance’ highlighted the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin, who had studied the practice habits of violin students in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

All had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only done 4,000 hours of practice.

The psychologists didn’t see any naturally gifted performers emerge and this surprised them. If natural talent had played a role it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect gifted performers to emerge after, say, 5,000 hours. Anders Ericsson concluded that many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of ten years.

The 10,000-Hour Rule proposes that the key to success in any field or endeavour is simply a matter of practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours. Of course, not all types of practice will achieve this result; it must be the ‘right’ type of practice. The 10,000 hour target can be achieved with 40 hours of work a week for five years, or 20 hours for ten years.

The 10,000 hour rule applies to all fields including, business, sport, art, and music. Of course, natural talent and ability are also a bonus and when matched with the 10,000 rule produce extraordinary results like Bill Gates or the Beatles.


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