Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Outliers' 10,000 Hour Rule

Time after time, we’ve heard about how being in the right place at the right time doing the right things with the right people contributes significantly to success. We’ve also heard how practice makes perfect. But Gladwell prefers to move beyond those clichéd or somewhat vague ideas and offer a more specific treatment on the roots of success.

In chapter two of Outliers, he argues that that it’s not simply practice that matters but rather that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to gain a truly remarkable mastery of a given skill. In other words, people would have to work on perfecting their skills for approximately 20 hours a week over the course of 10 years in order to acquire and display exceptional degrees of expertise in their fields. Gladwell cites the early careers of computer whizzes Bill Joy and Bill Gates as well as the rock group The Beatles as examples and explains how all of them achieved their 10,000 hours of practice before (or perhaps as an entry into) achieving tremendous levels of success.

If we buy into the “10,000 hour rule,” then we would need to also acknowledge the enormous and certainly unique resources and opportunities required for someone to take advantage of so much practice time.

But what did you think about practice and mastery as it relates to the idea of a 10,000 hour rule?

Or, another question: what kinds of conflicts do you see between the notions of studying hard as opposed to practicing long? That is, to what extent, if any, do the conventional processes of going to college (without unique resources and opportunities, for instance) hinder the kind of practice routines necessary for extraordinary success?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nia Williams.

Parents are always stressing "practice makes perfect" and I realized that professors are always stressing to double the time that you spend in class on homework and now I understand why. Before reading ch.2, I had never put much thought into how much time and effort that you put into something really does make a difference in your outcome. Sure, you can be smart and really good at something but this chapter is saying that natural talent can only get you so far. You have to put in the HOURS (preferably 10,000 hrs) of practice and experience like Bill Joy, Bill Gates, Pete Best, and others mentioned in the book did in order to succeed and become the BEST of the BEST!

Personally, I feel like that's difficult and nearly impossible to reach but Gladwell states that it's easier to accomplish if you are in some type of program that allows you to immerse yourself in that particular activity and get those hours. Along with family support for encouragement.

To me Gladwell makes a lot of sense and I agree with him. If I've been taking dance classes since I was three (which I have) two times a week for an hour each day, I'm not going to be nearly as good the next dancer who's been dancing since they were three also, but taking classes three times a week for two to three hours a day.

Although, I might the ability to become as good as them because I have natural talent, but in order for me to catch up, I would put in triple the practice to reach my goal.

Which leads back to how Bill Joy got to be the computer genius that he is now. He was already intelligent especially when it came to math and science, but with nonstop practice on the computer, he strengthened his skill and excelled.

Adam said...

A Schneider

"...the poeple at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, MUCH harder."

In today's society where we have professional athletes, CEO's, and movie stars making millions of dollars, people are always quick to say that it is a ridiculous amount of money for them to make. It is astronomical, but people forget that those select few people had to overcome unbelievable obstacles to get where they are. You cannot pick up a baseball, throw it around and then expect to play at the highest level, believe me I have tried. Those people have practiced, labored, and sacrificed more than most normal people simply could offer. Also, most people do not have the drive and commitment necessary to become truly great. The sacrifices made to become the very best at what you do are rewarded by the glory, fame and money.
10,000 hours to greatness seams to generalized for me. I know that there are things that it does not matter how much I practice I will never master. I believe you have to have some given talent to make you have the DRIVE necessary to even complete the 10,000 hours. Along the way to the 10,000 hours, people need to see that they are getting better for one and also they are extremely good at what they are trying to do. I would like to ask some of the extremely talented violinists in the study by K. Anders Ericson if they were always the best growing up. Were the merely good violinists always the best or along the way did they realize that they just weren’t going to be good enough? Did they lose their drive?

Paris Robinson said...

I have always that the more you practice the better you get at something. I never realized that practice turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. I thought that some people were born with god given talent and that makes the suceed the most because it was something that they are supposed to do.

It is extremely hard for some people to achieve 10,000 hrs of practice because many lack the emotional, financial stability to continue to cultivate their talent.

Robyn Rhone said...

I think the 10,000 hour rule is very hard to reach in our current society. There are so many different reasons that prevent people from spending a lot of time on their school work or perfecting a certain craft. Depending on the person, they might have to work full time to pay for schooling, have a family to take care of, or other major responsibilities. I think the 10,000 hour is a hard rule or goal to accomplish. I do believe that practicing or studying is the key to success but I think it should not be overdone. I don’t agree with Gladwell on the notion that “it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to gain a truly remarkable mastery of a given skill.” I do believe success or mastery comes from how much time and effort you put into something. Just because successful people like Bill Gates took this particular road to success doesn’t mean that it is the road for everyone else to follow. 20 hours a week for one particular subject or craft is a lot of time. There aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish other things that one might want to accomplish. Being successful takes determination and other factors as well, but 10,000 hours is just a hard concept to follow.

ROBYN RHONE

Brittney Spiller said...

I am not entirely sure if I agree down to the hour, however, I am a big advocate of putting in the practice and gaining experience. Being a Speech-Language Pathology major, our professors are always reminding us the closer to a 4.0 GPA we are the better chances we have of getting into graduate school to complete our degree. As fabulous as that all sounds, just because someone can ace an exam and memorize everything they have read for the class does not mean they'll achieve a "4.0" status in the actual job setting.
One of our younger professors is constantly stressing to us that what we are being taught in the classroom is not how things are actually done in the clinic. So learning to balance both is ideal. This way you can be sure one understands the concepts and that they can apply them and adjust them as needed in real life situations.
If you want to strive to be the best at something, you have to be willing to put forth the effort. The saying "there is always someone better", should be enough to drive any person who dares to dream. The Beatles did not happen by chance. They worked hard. It wasn't like John Lennon woke up randomly one morning and said, hey...I think I'll becoming famous today. He put for the time and effort of studying and mastering his skills.
I get the main idea of Gladwell discussing the 10,000 hours, but I also feel there is some room for skepticism in saying that maybe, by chance, some people do have a naturaly gift for whatever it is they aspire to do. And regardless of whether they put forth the effort and went the extra mile to achieve their goals or it was something that is innate in them, is something we will never be one hundred percent sure of.

Then again..."they" do say in death that all life's questions are answered.

Erik said...

Erik Sanders.

I thought that Chapter 2 of Outliers was a very interesting read and brought about several strong points. I definitely think that author Malcolm Gladwell provides ample evidence proving that people who are regarded as masters in their given fields have put in an uncanny amount of work. However, many of these people were presented with the OPPORTUNITY to excel in their fields. Bill Joy and Bill Gates were offered an almost infinite amount of time to program computers. Mozart, a man from a well to do family, was pushed and encouraged from virtually the beginning of his life to compose music. It is through those chance opportunities that they were all allowed to put in "10,000 hours."

I agree with Robyn in that the 10,000 hour rule would be very difficult to reach in today's society. Unless you are very well to do and your parents send you to expensive athletic academies or high prices boarding schools I can't see it being very possible to log enough time to "master" a craft in the way Gladwell uses the word. We all have too much responsibility in multiple realms to concentrate on mastering one area at this point in our lives.

With that being said, I think that the there are different degrees of mastery. It is my hope to become extremely proficient in the many different aspects of nursing so that I may become a "complete" nurse. I may not ever "practice" for 10,000 hours, but with hard work and dedication you can master a skill in your own way.

Janssen Shaw said...

I think the 10,000 hour rule should only apply to those who have completed education and are transitioning into the working field. The college process hinders accomplishing the 10,000 hour rule because between doing homework, possibly having a job, and then trying to practice and perfect a certain skill would be very exhausting. Their aren't enough hours in a day to keep up with all that work

Wes said...

Wesley Sloan.

I think Erik is completely right. A mixture of opportunity and practice will ultimately lead you to a life of success. Of course I believe that some skills require inherent abilities to begin with, like athletes. Being physically tall for example has no correlation with the "10,000 Hour Rule." I could be under 5 feet, practice 10,000 hours, and still not be successful in a sport like basketball at the professional level.

Therefore it all comes down to opportunity. Thousands of hours of practice can only help your cause but i believe opportunity is what really gets the ball rolling. I think it's opportunity first,(having access to computers in the late 1960s for example), and 10,000 hours of practice second,(pulling away from peers and becoming an "outlier"). If we all get the chance and put in the hours, only then are we recognized for our accomplishments.

Lauren Leohner said...

I do not like how Malcom Gladwell emphasizes that only the "lucky" and "talented" are chosen to be successful in the world. He makes it seem like you have to be a "chosen one" to move forward. This kind of news is disheartening for people who do not get exposed to the opportunities like Bill Gates. He was put into an upper class school because his parents could afford it. Gladwell continues on that this was a slim chance that Gates was attending that particular school. Promoting chances only gives hope to people who think that if they just sit around and wait for it, fate will just drop a once in a lifetime opportunity on their laps.
In a way this chapter contradicts itself. On one side it says putting hours into your work will prove successful, but it also states that chance determines success.
Although, I felt that this chapter was helpful in connecting different successful people and their roads towards achievement (like comparing the Beatles to Bill Joy). I found that to be very interesting. In addition, I agree with the time required for success. The 10,000 hours does seem a bit daunting, especially to us busy college students. I read comments before mine about how reaching that hour mark seems unrealistic. Yes, we are all busy with our part-time jobs, clubs, homework, social life, etc. but if we are passionate about our Major then we can MAKE that time to practice/study possible. Reaching that 10,000 hour mark should be easy if we are self-disciplined and passionate. Bill Gates, Bill Joy and the Beatles all spent the hours working hard because they enjoyed it. Bill Joy even mentioned almost forgetting to go to class (or being enrolled) because he was so involved with computer programming.
Forget about "talent" or "lucky chances." Real success is accomplished through hardwork(hours) and intense interest.

TaNeal Walls said...

I am a freshman here at SIUE and as a living witness I can testify that if I study for an exam 2 hours every single day 1 week before the exam, opposed to studying 4 hours the night before the exam, I am going to do better. In this case, I have had time to not only study the information, but also to go back and review the notes I studied the night before. Two hours everyday will seem much less than 4 hours the night before. It will also give you a better sense of familiarity and stability with your studies. As Gladwell stresses the importance of repetitive practice, I can definitely relate.

Although 10,000 hours seems almost impossible it is guaranteed and proven that someone who strives to reach that number will be far more successful than someone who doesn't have a set goal period.

Alycia said...

It's amaziang how greatness emerge from the generation you were born in down to the month u were born. But most of it comes from practice, and as I read in chapter 2, I see that how much you practice can truly make a difference. The 10,000 Hour Rule is long enough to create master-minds. Along with excessive hours of practice, I found that " Achievement is talent plus preparation. Interesting.
Reading this chapter made me overlook how my ability and then I realized how many of these successors were fortunate to have had a connection like they did to open doors and apply their ability.
I do personally feel that achieving those long hours will be difficult for so may. That we vwould rarely see people like Bill Joy and Bill Gates. Hopefully sooner or later another generation will be embraced with change so that our society can reach new and better heights.
Parents were also stressed in this chapter say that it's hard for a child to meet the hours that they so desire forpractice unless there was parental help and motivation. It also stated that being being poor would make matters more difficult, but with the push from parents, their children can begin to excel eventually to excellence and hopefully the success that the 10 Hour rule has to offer them.

Katrina S said...

Katrina Sivels

I think that there is natural talent. Some people do have natural talent and do not have to practice as much as others. The question arises what is to be successful in one's area of talent?

Sometimes practicing distorts natural talents and abilities. For example, I do not study for test but I still remember the material. Practicing only repeats the action and not necessarily perfects it. You know how to do it but it barely leaves room for creativity, which is the beauty of talent.

Keondra Walker said...

The 10,000 hour rule would ultimately fall into the cliche that practice makes perfect. However, I do not believe that if you practice/perform something 20 hours a week for 10 years that it would make you a master/expertise at whatever skill it was that you were practicing. For instance, someone who wanted to be a singer can practice singing all day long for years and years, but with all that practice, they still may not be able to be called an "expert" in what they are doing.

They may sound bad after all these years. Also, in today's world, things are constantly changing that it would be impossible to master something over the course of 10 years if it is not the same exact thing from 10 years before. For example, a doctor may be able to master certain skills as a doctor but he/she will never master being a doctor. Practice and medicine changes all the time, and doctors are always learning new things and new ways of doing things that it is impossible for them to master being a doctor.

Now they may be able to master some skills that come along with being a doctor such as taking someone's blood pressure but as a whole, people are constantly learning and evolving. Then you have people who are just naturally talented and probably do not even need to practice to do whatever they do on an "expertise" level.

It also depends on what it is that is trying to be mastered, simple things can be mastered in short amount of times, intricate things take longer. People are so different, intelligences are so different, and the necessary effort to master anything varies from person to person, so I don't think the 10,000 hour rule is for the majority.

Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe in order to be good at what you do, you have to put in work, but it doesn't take the 10,000 hour rule to master something, it takes the 10,000 hour rule to stay on top!

Anonymous said...

Abagail Thompson
The quote, "practice makes perfect," is a well known quote that is believed by many. Through experience, I don't believe that practice makes perfection, but that practice makes precision. 10,000 hours of hard work and dedication may allow an individual to complete a task with more successful and satisfying results, but I do not believe that it will allow a person to reach perfection. What truly is the definition of perfect. Perfection, to me, is the ability of something to remain flawlessly constant, not blemished by error or default. 10,000 hours of practice does not eliminate the occurrences of errors or flaws. Personally, one has a better chance of achieving perfection through diligent and short-lived practice than they do long and a more relaxed style of practice.
Even though Gladwell was aiming in the right direction with the 10,000 hour theory, I do not believe that vigorous and excessive practive will obtain perfection.

Aurelia Daniels said...

I agree with everyone, I do believe that practice makes perfect; however, I had no idea that the road to perfect had a specific number of practices to it. While reading, I was amazed in seeing how advantages also played a part in these people getting their 10,000 practice hours, just like in the previous chapter. Each of the people mentioned in this chapter was able to acquire their 10,000 hours due to unusual circumstances, like Bill Joy stumbling into the computer room at university of Michigan and Bill Gates being exposed to a computer with time-sharing at such a young age. Even so, reading this chapter has given me a goal (10,000 hours) to look forward to when straving to become the best.

Joe Hines said...

"... to what extent, if any, do the conventional processes of going to college (without unique resources and opportunities, for instance) hinder the kind of practice routines necessary for extraordinary success?" - The answer for many is "just that;" attending college/ the university is thought of as conventional, routine, and expected. Some even attend college simply because they don't know what else to do or have anywhere else to go.

I believe if we knew and understood the struggles that our ancestors had to go through to even be allowed to learn to read (let alone attend college,) the story would be completely different. People died for an education- that's how important it was to them, and with all the resources at our fingertips we dread even taking the time to sit down and read the textbook. ( because of our perspective on education/ college, we perform much worse than we should)

Fredrick Douglass mentioned in the "Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave" that by hearing the desire, passion, intesity and urgency that was in his master's voice when explaining why slaves should not be educated, he knew from then on education was the key to freedom.

The 10,000 hr. rule definitely bears a lot of weight; and obviously it's not exactly 10,000. Adam Schneider brought up a good point by posing the question of how each of these "prodigies" were thought of in their youth. While the many hours of practice clearly play a role in the success of the individual, this kind of consistency can't be accomplished leisurely. This plays right back into the Matthew Effect because achieving 10,000 hrs takes EXTREME dedication and this passion must be fueled by parents, friends, etc.

Clifford Rush III said...

Clifford Rush III,

I have to agree with the points he make. He does a good job explaining the people with talent did practice and they weren't "naturals" I respect his point and have mentioned the 10,000 hour rule to friends.

The point makes alot of sense. He does mention some who stray, like Bobby Fischer. Also, people dont have to be born in those time frames to be successful at what they do, like the millionaires and the computer guys.

The lucky break seems to be a rule for people like Joy and Gates etc. Josh Groban has a story of how he was noticed and came out of no where to be famous young classical singer.

Anyways, I learned alot from this chapter and it makes me want to read the rest.

Wesley Sloan said...

I think Erik is completely right. A mixture of opportunity and practice will ultimately lead you to a life of success. Of course I believe that some skills require inherent abilities to begin with, like athletes. Being physically tall for example has no correlation with the "10,000 Hour Rule." I could be under 5 feet, practice 10,000 hours, and still not be successful in a sport like basketball at the professional level.

Therefore it all comes down to opportunity. Thousands of hours of practice can only help your cause but i believe opportunity is what really gets the ball rolling. I think it's opportunity first,(having access to computers in the late 1960s for example), and 10,000 hours of practice second,(pulling away from peers and becoming an "outlier"). If we all get the chance and put in the hours, only then are we recognized for our accomplishments.

dominic williams said...

The 10,000 hour rule is a very interesting theory. It states that if you practice for at least 10,000 hours you will master your passion. That mean that you put 416.67 dedicated days of nothing but practicing what you love to do and you will be the one of best at what you do. This is true in some cases, but not for all. As Nia Williams stated in her post, "Practice makes perfect." That is what we are all taught when growing up and learning new things, however, it's wrong. The correct saying should be, "Perfect practice makes perfect." For example, when you are at practice for a sport or anything, you go over plays a million times. Why? To perfect it. You can learn a play by reading it and do it to the best of your knowledge, but that doesn't mean you did it correct and it worked. You go over plays and practice to perfect what needs to be perfected. So yes, practice does make perfect, but it has to be perfect practice. A good example of a failure of the 10,000 hour theory is Shaq and free throws. Shaq has probably shot way over 10,000 free throws in his lifetime and has probably spent an great amount of time trying to at least get good at free throws, not even perfect. But, he just doesn't have the ability or capability to shoot them very well. So you can apply this theory to a lot of success stories, but you can also apply it to some non-success stories.

tiawanathomas said...

Tiawana Thomas

After reading this chapter I must say that time is the biggest factor for me in becoming the best at what I want to do. My experience of reading The 10,000-Hour Rule has inspired me to continue my education in become and educator instead of what I persuing a degree in now. This is a decision I've been restling with for some time now because age is a major factor.
I am a wife, a mother of three, and a full-time student. These a just some of the obstacles that I have before me in prparing for a career. I feel like I can do anything if I put my mind to it, and most scholars do. With age and time in mind, I have decided to further my education in a career that I have the most experience in instead of one that I don't think I'd like the everyday stress. I have proven to be a more effective leader as an educator than a leader of computer projects. Practice does make perfect and I have many years of being and educator under "my belt".
Along my path of getting to where I am now I can see how time, place, and birth can be a considerd factor in my successes. Although I don't believe them to be accidents.

Glennda Lyles said...

Glennda Lyles

The proverb, "Practice makes perfect" is a rule of thumb that is no stranger to any of us. Malcolm Gladwell extends this idea by suggesting that its not just the practice, but rather prolonged time periods of practice that truly makes us successful. His theory is an interesting concept. It is true that some of us are born with unique talents and gifts and some of us simply master these skills with less effort than others. However, I agree that we can further our skills and potential success by increasing the amount of time we spend practicing. A child may have a natural talent ability for a particular sport and as a result they may excel in that sport. However, if that child were to drastically increase the amount of time they spent practicing, they could have the potential to multiply their skills and level of success. Likewise, we as college students could benefit from Gladwell's theory by not just studying because we have an upcoming test but rather by increasing our studying time, starting early, and taking advantage of the resources available to us.
Spending 10,000 hours practicing is a bit extreme because the vast majority of individuals simply don't have that kind of time to spare. I think the main concept to be learned from the 10,000 hour rule is that we should increase the amount of time and effort we put into our projects in order to truly be successful.

Chris jones said...

While I do agree with most of the 10,000 hour rule, I feel it is almost impossible to achieve, especially in this society. With most of us falling in the lower/middle class, few of us have the time while balancing school, work, and our social lives to put in that much work. I also believe that not all successful people worked to get there. I certainly believe that many of the upper class worked to get there, but I am also a firm believer that many people simply fall into success and wealth, without putting in any hours, whilst others may toil for a lifetime and still remain poor.