10,000 hours to become an expert? Sorry, that number is off

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Hang on…you’re saying that an author cherry picked some arbitrary number of hours that drastically reduces a complex series of variables into a simple, easy to digest narrative that the media runs with until it becomes ingrained into the popular culture is NOT accurate?



I don’t think anyone with half a brain took the 10k hr idea absolutely literally. It was a way of thinking to counter the idea that “they just got lucky” for the examples of Gates and the Beatles etc.


I was thinking about this yesterday. I studied language for an hour. When I finished, I thought to myself, “Okay, just ten-thousand of those and I’ll be great at it!”


And one of the things you don’t get enough of in these things is the kind of hours put in matters. You know:

  1. For this hour, do you have a clearly defined skill you have not yet mastered as your target?
  2. Are you guaranteed to have no distractions or disturbances in this hour (barring acts of God)?
  3. Do you have a feedback mechanism that accurately measures how much you improved toward that skill?
  4. Can you repeat / refine your practice?

If you can’t answer “yes” to all of those, you’re not practicing.


24,000 hours?


There is nothing I like doing that I want to spend that much time doing it.


I’ve put something like 80,000 hours into sleeping, and I still suck at it.


24 Studies have shown that 83.2% of such numbers are completely made up anyway.



TIL you’re not an expert until you are one of the handful of people in your field to have won an international competition, I guess.

These 3 ‘problems’ with the rule of thumb offered aren’t problems when considering that the 10k hours thing is a rule of thumb. The premises are solid enough, it doesn’t matter that there are (of course there are) variances between areas in which one might become expert.

I’ve heard Gladwell speak about this a few times (mostly on Freakonomics), and he basically admits the number is arbitrarily high. The important thing is to dispel:

  1. The quality of practice matters
  2. Genius is not enough
  3. Luck is not enough
  4. True experts live and breathe the craft

This is really just buzzy numbers to attract dollars.


[quote=“boingboing, post:1, topic:79424”]The bottom line is, practice as much as you love doing something. If you love it enough, you just might become an expert. If you practice for hours’ sake, you still might end up being average – and frustrated to boot.[/quote]The great conundrum is, what if there are things that you might not initially enjoy practicing but might come to appreciate more only after attaining some expertise? Should we only practice things that we love right away, even if we might not come to love them very much and can only ever do them badly?


Coming up next : How many pedants does it take to interpret a poem? The answer may surprise you!


Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing; so be careful what you get good at.

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The more I read about and of Malcolm Gladwell, the more I think he hasn’t put in enough hours yet.


I thought there was something off about this. I’ve practiced playing the guitar regularly for over 30 years. So far, my mastery of the instrument is limited to the scrabbling sounds pioneered by Arto Lindsay.

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this is why i don’t cook professionally. i love cooking, being a chef for a living would suck the joy out of it for me. i worked as a line cook for 9 months. my skills, they did improve, but my life how i hated it.


Exactly so. He’s smart but intellectually as lazy as someone can be. His articles, and his books, are very poorly researched.

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Gladwell’s books – the Harlequin Romances of research.


Nobody believed that 10.000 hours is an accurate number. It was obviously an estimated average. The author did not look nor he had the intention of accurately measuring the practice time to excellence for violin playing or wood carving. He just wanted to make a point, which he did.