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What is the 10,000 Hour Rule, and Does it Work?

A business owner is always looking to improve their skills and learn about new ones. It’s natural to want to learn new things, even if you’re already an expert in your own field. The 10,000 hour rule offers a few guidelines to help you learn a new craft, but it’s not as easy as consistent practice. You might be in for a long journey toward “expert status.”

What the 10,000 Hour Rule Is
The 10,000 hour rule is a concept that claims the best way to develop what’s called “world-class skill” is to have at least 10,000 hours of experience using the skill. The original report discussing the 10,000 hour rule was published in 1993 and used an example of musical students at an academy in Germany to reinforce the point. The students put in an average of 10,000 hours of practice by the time they had turned 20 years old, resulting in “world-class skill.”

Why It Might Be Wrong
Anders Ericsson, who worked on the original study, claims in his new book that the 10,000 hour rule is much more complex than simply “practice makes perfect.” Alongside his co-author, Robert Pool, he attempts to take a more scientific approach to the rule. Here is a short summary of their conclusions:

  • There’s nothing special about 10,000 hours: Rather than chosen through a scientific method, the number 10,000 was chosen because it’s a round number, and that it’s a large number. Regardless, the musicians could be prodigies but still be nowhere near their peaks. It’s been proven that pianists usually reach the pinnacle of their abilities by the time they’ve reached 30 years of age.
  • 10,000 was only the average: 10,000 might be a lot of time, but it will only be enough to reach the average of those who are also working toward the same skill level. If others have a similar skill level, how can you be deemed “world class?” Other studies have shown that it can take as many as ten years to reach this skill level.
  • Practice isn’t enough: While it certainly helps to put plenty of time into practice, that isn’t enough. You need to go out of your way to challenge yourself and put in “deliberate practice.” Go beyond your comfort zone and work toward improving yourself.

The Lesson: Practice Makes Perfect, Not Necessarily Time
Regardless of whether or not you believe in the 10,000 hour rule, there are still some lessons that can be gleaned from this study. Here are three ways that you can apply the 10,000 hour rule to your professional development.

  • Train the right way: If you take the time to focus on your skills, you’ll surely see results. Make sure that you devote yourself entirely to learning the new skill. For example, a writer who’s trying to hit his daily word count probably shouldn’t do it with the television on in the background, as it will take away from his focus and reduce the quality of his work.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Regardless of how much time you spend on a certain skill, you’ll be gaining valuable experience and improving it. Even if you only spend a couple hours a week here and there on learning about your chosen craft, your knowledge will undoubtedly grow and you’ll see at least some results.
  • There are no limitations: It’s important to remember that there will always be ways to improve yourself and your skills. Even if you’re at the forefront of your chosen industry, there’s surely something else you can learn if you work hard at it.

While it might be impossible to become an expert on a craft in a short period of time, if you focus on the right aspects of your craft, you’re sure to learn a thing or two.


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