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Monday, May 23, 2016

Our research was key to the 10,000-hour rule, but here’s what got oversimplified

Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
Originally posted April 16, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Research has shown this to be true in field after field. It generally takes about ten years of intense study to become a chess grandmaster. Authors and poets have usually been writing for more than a decade before they produce their best work, and it is generally a decade or more between a scientist’s first publication and his or her most important publication — and this is in addition to the years of study before that first published research. A study of musical composers by the psychologist John R. Hayes found that it takes an average of twenty years from the time a person starts studying music until he or she composes a truly excellent piece of music, and it is generally never less than ten years. Gladwell’s ten-thousand-hour rule captures this fundamental truth — that in many areas of human endeavor it takes many, many years of practice to become one of the best in the world — in a forceful, memorable way, and that’s a good thing.

On the other hand, emphasizing what it takes to become one of the best in the world in such competitive fields as music, chess, or academic research leads us to overlook what we believe to be the more important lesson from the study of the violin students. When someone says that it takes ten thousand — or however many — hours to become really good at something, it puts the focus on the daunting nature of the task. While some may take this as a challenge — as if to say, “All I have to do is spend ten thousand hours working on this, and I’ll be one of the best in the world!”—many will see it as a stop sign: “Why should I even try if it’s going to take me ten thousand hours to get really good?” As Dogbert observed in one “Dilbert” comic strip, “I would think a willingness to practice the same thing for ten thousand hours is a mental disorder.”

The article is here.