Monday, June 15, 2009

10,000 Hours

If you want to be proficient, perhaps the best, at anything, the only thing you need is time. A lot of it - 10,000 hours, to be precise. This is the latest from Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink) who asserts in his book Outliers (Little, Brown & Co. 2008) that the magic formula for mastering a skill like playing the violin or shooting hoops or designing computer software is simply to put in the time to practice, practice, practice.

(Um, no kidding. I think my mom told me the "practice makes perfect" mantra when I was about five, but anyway... I guess experts have now made the practice notion quantifiable and therefore either more practical or completely daunting, depending on who you talk to.)

So it seems you can be the most average chess player and become a grandmaster if you've got about 10 years to work diligently on improving your skills. Gladwell quotes Daniel Levintin, author of This is Your Brain on Music (Penguin, 2006), who said,
"ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery
associated with being a world-class expert - in anything... it seems that it
takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve
true mastery."
If this holds true, then I guess I've been taking the wrong tactic all along with my list of goals. Perhaps I should pick just one and dedicate the rest of my life to perfecting it. Hmn, floristry? Studies clearly demonstrate I could be the best florist on the planet if I put my mind to it... despite the fact that at present I can't even tell a chrysanthemum from a carnation.

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