10000 hours to master anything?

So, lots of people wonder what it takes for them to be considered experienced, at what point is someone  considered an expert at something? Malcom Gladwell, a well known Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker, writer of the Outliers: The Story of Success, says it takes 10000 hours to master a skill. That’s roughly 5 years, assuming you are dedicating 8 hours a day, excluding weekends.


Malcom based his idea on a 3 decade research by a scientist who tried to find out what it takes, to reach the top 1% of any given skill. During his research he worked with people in various sports. The conclusion he got to, was that after 10000 of practicing a specific skill, you become a master at it.


Malcom in his book added a few known references, mainly The Beatles, who had played together at a strip club for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, for many months none stop until they became superstars and Mozart, who did not compose anything interesting until he was 23, but had been composing for 10 years by then.


Timothy Ferriss, American author and entrepreneur says, most people are able to master skills and get to the top of the world, but are not able to identify the raw material that can lead them to the top.


Bill Gates, one of the top 5 most successful men on earth, when questioned about the 10000 hours, he says that he believes it is not realistic because people go to a lot of trial and error to get to places in their careers. When you get to your 10000 hours, it does not just mean you got it and you are automatically a master, it is actually because you were gifted by some magical power, it is because you were built for it.


Evan Carmichael, successful entrepreneur and Public Speaker replies using 3 main factors

  1. Passion matters – we have all seen how some people do better at certain subjects at school, because they like them, and can’t seem to understand others, but they actually have the same time of practice for both subjects. Many work for years at places and never get to the top 1% simply because that’s not what they are passionate about
  2. Not all hours are the same – The best way to master a skill, is with a good mentor, the bad one, is to try it by yourself. 1000 hours trying by yourself could actually be 300 with a good mentor.
  3. Why does it even matter – If you are so focused on the number of hours, are you really interest in the skill? The passion should drive you towards it.


Vusi Thembekwayo, a highly skilled South African Public Speaker and self-made millionaire, has a different opinion, he believes that yes, it is correct, but only if “the game doesn’t change”, in other words, in his own words, “if the set of skills you are required to succeed, don’t change”. He goes further with an example, Tennis, in the past 3 decades, only went through 2 major rule changes, in the 90s, changing from forcing players to have only one foot on the floor, while serving to allowing players to have both feet. Later changing the line that defined weather the ball was in or out of the field after serving. In conclusion he says, if the rules change, then you have invested 10000 hours, mastering a skill that is not useful for the consumer anymore. So no guarantee that what you are good at, is what has value, and in modern days, speed is more important, than time spent.


Lisandro Jordão, a Mozambican Business Development Advisor & Finance Mentor says Alternative psychological research suggests that expertise is obtained by the way it practised more than the time devoted, for that reason, he disagrees with the 10000 hour rule because in his view, for one to get the best at any given field the primary requirement is not the quantity but the quality of the time spent is what matters the most.


Provided that the learning conditions and circumstances are different, its is likely that those who are exposed to different conditions, both internal and external, have completely different outcomes in terms of level of expertise attained in a particular subject. In fact, rare are not the cases of people that despite having spent more than 10000 hours on a particular subject, have not managed to become experts at it.


Measuring the level of knowledge under a single variable among many others that can influence one’s expertise is in my opinion not only unrealistic and biased but also unfair and discouraging to those aiming to manter a new skill in a shorter time-frame.


I personally believe that there is a combination of 3 things that get you to master a skill:

Passion – It is what is going to get you to start, and will keep you going when things get hard,


Mentorship – You need to identify one or more people that will guide you & share their experience with you,


Trial and error – you have to do it yourself, fail at it, and try again until you get it right!


What is your take on all of this?


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