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To become a preeminent expert, it takes 10,000 hours of practice.


Ever since Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which has sold north of 2 million copies, the “10,000 Hour Rule” has become very well known in the learning and education fields. While Gladwell popularized the meme, it’s pretty clear that it is not original with him.

Nevertheless, it is Gladwell’s synopsis that has traveled through the information universe. Here are some of the major parameters of Gladwell’s description:

  • It takes everyone, in every field, 10,000 hours to become a preeminent expert.


Strength of Evidence Against

Gladwell is certainly correct that expertise requires intense long-term practice. However, the notion that it always takes 10,000 hours is certainly wrong. As researcher Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool have written in their book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, “Unfortunately, this rule — which is the only thing that many people today know about the effects of practice — is wrong in several ways. (It is also correct in one important way, which I will get to shortly.)” (p. 110).

  • Some experts take longer, some shorter to reach expertise.
  • Different fields require different amounts of practice.
  • Not all practice is created equal. It is only “deliberate practice” that enables expertise.
  • Not all people who practice for 10,000 hours will become experts.
  • To become an expert, it does take intensive, intentional, well-designed practice over many years.

Note: Deliberate practice “involves constantly pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort zone, following training activities designed by an expert to develop specific abilities, and using feedback to identify weaknesses and work on them.” From Ericsson and Pool article in Salon.

Notes on Deliberate Practice

While the deliberate-practice notion has received widespread research support, it should not be interpreted to suggest that such deliberate practice is all you need to be good. Moreover, it should not be interpreted to mean that deliberate practice has the same impact in every field of endeavor. Indeed a recent meta-analysis suggested that deliberate practice may be more potent in some fields than in others.


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