Tuesday, February 16, 2010

10,000 Hour Rule and Outliers

Readers have found the ideas that Gladwell raises in chapter two of Outliers quiet fascinating. In particular, they have been drawn to his discussion of the “10,000 hour rule,” that is, the notion that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice for a person 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.

Gladwell cites the early careers of computer whizzes Bill Joy and Bill Gates as well as the rock group The Beatles as examples of people who had achieved success in large part because they had achieved their 10,000 hours of practice. It’s worth noting, of course, that those who acquire that many practice hours had unique resources and vital networks of support and opportunity.

Given the demands (and distractions?) of a general college education, which includes attention to multiple courses and subject-matter, should students here be thinking seriously about gaining thousands of hours practicing in a particular area of study? Or, should the priority be to focus on gaining hundreds of hours in a few areas of study?

22 comments:

Shawn C. said...

Here at SIUE we all are working toward the ultimate dream of receiving our degree in our choice field. We all have the classes in which we love and those in which we rather dislike. However I believe that by saying that we need to only put an excess number of hours into that one class or subject we rather enjoy we are cutting ourselves short of becoming well rounded individuals.

My way of thinking goes like this, we spend just as much time in the class we love and enjoy doing, as in the class that we rather not be in. So from this stand point whats it going to hurt to shave a few extra hours of studying off of the area we enjoy and focus on the area we do not respect as much. I believe by spending our time equally on different types of materials in the end our ability to take our knowledge and share it with others in the world is much greater. This is in comparison to only focusing a majority of time on a certain aspect of our studies.

Laura McCulley said...

If students in general feel passionate about one particular subject or skill or talent then sure its ok to put forth all of those hours in order to be the best that they can be.

If students like a little bit of everything then the focus should be to become well rounded and know a substantial amount about many subjects instead of one or work on many skills or talents instead of just putting the main focus on one. In a way it makes student more marketable that way.

It comes down to the individual person. As stated in the chapter bill gates had a passion for computers and the opportunities were presented to him where he could get those 10,000 hours. Some people are not that fortunate and have to work with what they can so if they can become good at the violin, ballet and math instead of a genius or prodigy in just one area then its ok.

Precious Wu said...

I find that the “10,000 hour rule” to truly master a given skill is very interesting. I do see the undeniable fact that practice, practice, practice, can take an individual a very long way with their chosen skill. I do think that there are many factors that are barriers to this idea. Gladwell states, “…reached their lofty status through a combination of ability, opportunity, and utterly arbitrary advantage.” I think that so many variables must come into play in conjunction with the 10,000 hours of practice, that it is hard for a typical college student, like myself, to believe this rule whole-heartedly. Also, I think that there are many individuals that are not capable of doing certain things no matter how much practice.

In college, the curriculum and general education requirements are set up so we can become a well-rounded graduate. I think that our emphasis of practice should be on the area of study on what we decide to make our career. But we definitely should spend adequate amount of time and effort in other classes outside our potential career-field. Although I am a science major, many of my other classes have benefited me greatly in my major and also in life. Without studying English and writing, how could a scientist write their journal articles to convey their findings in a reputable way? I think interpersonal communication skills are important in many aspects of life. Whether in a job interview or relationships, learning this skill is a must. I think students should focus on dedicating the amount of hours and practice with emphasis in their major, but to spend time in other subjects that will not only benefit in their career choice, but life.

cc said...

Cassandra Smith:

I agree with Shawn in saying that by dedicating our time to various studies we become more versatile; however, when I think of my medical doctor, pharmacist, and professors, as their patient, student etc., I am not particularly concerned with how versatile they are. I really just want the best in that particular field--someone who specializes in that field, mastered classes related to that field, had a lot of experience in that field.
As Chapter 2 proves to us, in order to be extraordinary in anything, there is a particular amount of time and attention that must be spent on that subject, that hobby, that career. etc.
I feel as though, we focused on gaining hundreds of hours in a few areas of study in high school when we had 6-7 classes a year as a graduation requirement.
Therefore, in college I believe the priority should be gaining thousands of hours practicing in a particular area of study.

Hayoung Yu said...

Although it may seem best to focus on one path of study in college, spending most of our time on a certain subject may close us off from other opportunities. Some students come to school knowing what major they will pursue but at the same time they are miserable in the classes focused on that major. If one wants to pursue a career, which can be one's occupation for a LIFETIME, shouldn't they enjoy things related to it?

Having a variety of classes can seem to be a waste of time to some people, but it can be life changing to others. It can open up students' eyes to interests that they never knew they had. Therefore, studying a variety of course can be very beneficial for newer college students so they are able to discover their true interests and pursue a career in a path that will bring them joy.

Amanda M. said...

I think it depends on the person. Some people may want to pursue multiple things and be able to accomplish many things. On the other hand, some people may just want to focus on one area of interest and perfect their skills in that area.
I believe it would be better to practice multiple things that you love to do rather than just focus on one. Even though you may not be perfect in every area, you are still well accomplished.

Anonymous said...

John Silerio

After doing some quick math I was able to find if a major required a person to complete 135 hours of certain coursework someone would attend class for approximately 6,075 hours. Many have heard that that for every hour a scholar spends in class another 3 should be spent studying/comprehending what has been taught the previous class. So after all those hours a accumulated it would be over 10,000 (18,225 approximately) and would classify that person as an expert as Gladwell stated.

There are different specialties at SIUE such as Business, Art, and Science, where a student can choose sub sections of specific studies. With that guideline comes many classes that students see as "a waste of time." I would combat the electives and general areas of study with just having a subject being micro-studied with longer hours of course work that pertains to the major one is seeking. This would give them "expertise" in the field of their choice and help them feel more self absorbed in the actual class work.

Cristina salabao said...

All throughout our schooling, we are encouraged to have a well rounded education. In the world we live in, we have the potential to become anything, whereas in the past, you followed family legacy or worked a blue collar job that was a reflection of your class or heritage. Those people had time to put in thousands of hours of practice because that job was set for them from childhood and the trade was practiced growing up. In the last century, as better education systems have been set up, we can dabble in many different fields before we pick a job in our late teens and early twenties, giving most of us a lesser chance to get that practice in but a higher chance of getting a job we love and will eventually get a lot of practice in if we are true to ourselves and really love what we do. I would choose studying a diversity of subjects And gaining that experience later... Very few of us are given the opportunity at a young age to practice that which we know we will love later in life.

Ian Caveny said...

Only recently have I begun to see study as a beautiful thing (and, even then, my vision is only starting to see this in the realm of academics, where it had only seen it before in music and arts). Given the broad range of academics at a college campus, and the broad ranges of difficulty, even given the beauty of study... I still do not see the time set aside for academics in this manner as necessary.

Yes, one should aim to excel in their field -- But not always is one's field what one is studying in college. I personally am called to writing and to music, but my major is in chemistry. Does this mean I shouldn't devote time to chemistry? Absolutely not! But it does mean that I will definitely devote more of my time to writing and more of my time to playing music.

Above all these, it is far better to spend one's extra time on what is even more important: family, friends, loved ones, and, greatest of all, God. The moment that one's practicing gets inbetween them and what is truly important, it ceases to be an area of expertise and begins to become a false god.

All that aside, it is a great idea to study into one's calling. That studying needs to be there for mastery. But it must not become the center of one's life.

Quince Zackrie said...

I think that by spending a ton of time only focusing on one skill actually limits an individuals abilities. While they may be great at that one thing, there are other things that they may be good at as well. By branching out and finding out what an individual is good at and what they aren't, it allows the individual to combine those to skills to make an even better or more unique skill. Specializing in a skill can still be beneficial if you are one of the few who have that skill. If you are one of those people, you can exploit that and take advantage.

Everyone is different and has their own passion. It's ultimately the individuals choice to choose their path. Somethings may work where others may not.

Chardae Gray said...

I partially agree with Gladwell's statement that practice does make perfect. The more hours you put into a subject of interest the closer you will get to perfection. I personally think that a person should put most of their concentration on the subject that interest them the most.However, also believe that as college student it is essential for us to be well rounded in all different subjects.Employers look for someone who is efficient in different subjects and someone who can multitask. Focusing on one subject for that amount of time will not allow you to do that.

Daniel Shields said...

I agree with many of the previous posts. I do think it is important to be versatile. I think its healthy and a good idea to take classes outside of your major or specialty.

I do agree with Laura when she said that if a student is passionate about a subject its ok to focus on it, but we are at an undergraduate level of college and I believe that many students have NO idea what they want to do.
Taking a variety of classes could help or inspire a student to do something big. Taking only one subject of classes would limit students full potential.

Morris Pearson, Jr. said...

I know that at SIUE they teach that all students should be well rounded, but I believe that its up to the individual. If you spend all your time focusing on one subject you are bound to master it, but at the cost of being weaker in other subjects. While on the flip side, if you spread out all of your time to various subjects you may never become a masters at anything. So I believe that with every choice their is both a benefit and a consequence. So I believe its up to the individual to decide what they are willing to gain and/or sacrifice. The only advantage that a person who has knowledge in many subjects as compared to one who only has knowledge in one, is adaptability. Although this may be one advantage, it is an essential part of life.

Anonymous said...

Teresa G.

Many students change their majors and or enter college with an undecided major so to ask that they dedicate 10,000 hours of study to one specific subject is impractical given the purpose of a liberal arts college. However, it all goes back to self-determination and desire. If a student knows that he wants to specialize in an area, he should naturally spend more time learning that specific information, developing skills in that area, and exploring the resources that are available to him.

The priority at SIUE, especially for traditional students should be to expose students to different pathways and to educate them on the options available. Then the students should key in on their interest and spend more time in that area. Ten thousand hours of study on top of every other event in life may be excessive. However, I do feel that it is important to concentrate in one area because sometimes knowing a little about a lot will only take you so far.

Robin Caffey said...

I feel that the study on a few fields of study is necessary. I am studying to be an accountant ,but to be successful in the field of business there is more knowledge I need to obtain other than just the accounting rules.

My polital science class shows me how the laws and politics will effect the companies I may work for. Human psycology will tell me how other people may react to the actions of my company. History shows me the changes that have been made over time to better business so I don't make the same mistakes that have been made in the past.

That's why I believe it necessary to learn multiple fields of study. It is necessary to have as much knowledge to make the right decisions in life.

Sydney Nulsen said...

I think that the 10,000 hour rule is pure speculation. There is no sort of scientific evidence to support this. It is a very arbitrary number. It is the same as me saying if you repeat something 799 times you will remember it for life. In contradiction to this are people who are just good at things with no studying involved. My father for example is an excellent piano and guitar player although he cannot read a single note of music.

Tamika Glover said...

I think the priority should be to focus on gaining hundreds of hours in a few areas of study rather than trying to get thousands of hours in one area of study. Not only is hundreds of hours more realistic and compatible with a college students life style than thousands of hours is, but focusing on a few areas of study is also better than just focusing on one.

A college education is very time consuming in itself. The general rule for studying is that you should spend 2 hours studying for every one hour in the classroom. That means that for someone like me who is taking 15 credit hours, class work should consume 45 hours of my time out of one week. Therefore, getting thousands of hours of practice in a particular area of study is less compatible with such a busy schedule since academics come first.

Also, focusing on a few areas of study is better than focusing on one because it gives more options. Most college students change their major 3 times. So focusing on a few areas of study is more realistic so if someone does change their mind they would not have to start over from scratch.

Anonymous said...

Jes S

As a freshman at SIUe, I am focusing on a variety of studies. I believe that this will help me in the long run. If I only focused on one area of study, I may not find the area that I truly want to study. All throughout highschool, I was pursuaded by my family to enter nursing. This was something that I thought I wanted to do, until I came to school and began to experience the other areas of study. I believe that this is one of the reasons why we are required to take the general education classes; early in our college career we get to experience a wide variety of classes in different areas of study. Once we find the area that we truly love and want to spend the rest of our lives in, then it is logical to follow the '10.000 hour rule.' Spending that much time, hypothetically, will increase our abilities to perform well in the tasks that the specific area of study requires.

SierraCarmichael said...

I do not know if the ten-thousand hour rule applies so much to students because, the book talks about how there where no "naturals" or "grinders" but in college you do have the students that float through the curriculum effortlessly and others that contribute to studying greatly and still only do what is considered to be average. I feel if someone is really passionate about what they want out of life they will excel.

Katie D. said...

I think if a person has a passion for a particular area of study, then they should do 10000 hour. Ofcourse, if there is a passion they'll have no trouble with it. But for others,who haven't found that passion, I believe that they should dabble in a few areas.
I also think that some students have passions that college coursework-- at least undergrad-- fails to address.

Trenesa Atkins said...

Students here should not even think about trying to devote thousands of hours of study to one particular field. Yes, its true that we are all here because there is some field that we are interested in but it is impossible to focus on only one course, for example, because all courses are greatly demanding.

However, hundreds of hours is more realistic. I couldn't agree more with the author of this book when he says something like, "we can't wait until we become good at something to prractic, we practice in order to become good.

Chico Weber said...

I think your primary focus should be on what you enjoy. If you enjoy your area of study you'll be glad to put in the 20 hours a week to get good at it. With regard to classes, the degree your trying to get will determine your classes and as you move along your classes will start to become more related to your degree. Because of this you will be spending over 20 hours a week in preparation for your degree. Essentially the program is making you perform 20 hours a week towards your area of study.
If you want to be an expert in a field then your gonna study if not then you should try studying different things. It really depends on the individual and there really can't be one definitive answer for all students.