Entrepreneurship

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10000 Hours Rule Explained

The Beatles and Bill Gates

The 10,000-hour rule is a popular ideology that when you put 10,000 hours practicing deliberately on an activity you can master it. It is a magical number introduced by K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist (and later on, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book entitled ‘Outliers’), the 10,000-hour rule argues that anyone can be an expert of various fields by allotting thousands of hours to become successful in it. Gladwell called successful individuals, whose achievements are out of the normal, as the “Outliers’.

In Ericsson’s research, he grouped violinists into three groups. The first group consists of elite-level violinists, the second group as somehow ‘good’ violinists, and the last as those who are only good enough to be a music teacher in a public school. They found out that almost all participating violinists started playing at the age of five. However, what made the difference is the hours they took practicing playing violin the following years. The elite-level violinists gathered 10,000 hours of practice, 8,000 hours for the ‘good’ violinists, and 4,000 hours for the music-teacher-level violinists. The same trend was seen on pianists. Ericsson concluded that 10,000 hours is the magic number for true expertise.

The Beatle’s popularity was not an overnight success.

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Widely known ‘Outliers’ are the Beatles and Bill Gates. Before the Beatles’ popularity in the US, they were invited to play in a strip club in Hamburg, Germany. They were forced for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. Due to this, they amassed more than 10,000 hours playing together mastering their music before they got famous in the US.  Likewise, Bill Gates spent more than 10,000 hours in computer programming before he became successful with Windows.

When you give effort in something, you will get a reward. Gladwell believed in this principle where ‘effort’ brings ‘reward’ and called it ‘Meaningful work’. For him, there is no such thing as talent or gift.

Since then, this magical number was followed by many individuals striving for greatness. However, according to new studies, this rule is widely inaccurate.

10,000 is just an arbitrary number

According to Ericsson, Gladwell’s work is a simplistic view of his research (that anyone can be automatically master any expertise when worked on several hours). He later clarified that in his study, the 10,000 hours is not the magical number to become a master, but only the average time spent by the elites practicing. It took some only 2,500 hours, but others took more than 25,000 hours to attain great performance.

It is on our advantage that the rule is inaccurate. It only means that we can be a master of any field within less than 10,000 hours. However, it could also mean that even if it took us more than 10,000 hours, we can never master a field.

Additionally, a new study in Princeton that there is only 12% difference in performance when practicing on various fields.

A study by students from Case Western Reserve University argues that deliberate practice delivered only 26% performance difference in games, 21% in music, 18% in sports, 4% in education, and only less than 1% performance difference on professions. This only shows that deliberate practice can help little to none performance difference in areas such as music and sports. Moreover, this is useless to rapidly changing fields such as technology and business.

Outliers Performance Sectors Difference Chart

How can we use the 10,000 hours rule properly to succeed?

  1. Find your passion.

Finding what you are truly passionate about is the first key in succeeding. What is the use of practicing thousands of hours in basketball if you never really liked it to begin with? In doing business, find the niche you are most interested about. Let’s take ‘technology’ for an example.

  1. Focus on one goal at a time. Never stop until achieved.

After pinpointing your passion, you should come up with goals you want to achieve. You can start small such as setting your goal in the first week as: ‘publishing my website with 10 articles’. Your next goal can be: ‘Learning how SEO works’.

  1. Allot time daily

Take time daily on things that can improve your business. Ask yourself how can my website get better? How can I attract traffic?

  1. Get some expert help if needed.

Let’s be honest for a second here, we are not perfect beings. We are bound to have flaws – it’s just how human nature works. There will be things that we are not capable of mastering, even comprehending. At this point you should get help from experts. Experts can help in making our success faster. In our example, you can get the help of SEO Analyst to get the traffic you’ve been wanting.

Perhaps, the 10,000 hour rule is a myth. However, this does not change the fact that practice is one of the keys to success. It takes courage, luck, drive, and practice for one to succeed. It takes time to master something. Keep dreaming.

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James is the co founder of More Than Accountants an Online Accountants. He will be more than happy to help More Than Accountants clients implement any guides or strategies that he has posted to the blog. If you would like to learn more about becoming a More Than Accountants client you can quote online by using our Unlimited Accountancy Services Quoting Tool.

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