Why I Cringe When I Hear Someone Mention the 10,000 Hour Rule

Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule?

It was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers based on research done by Professor K. Anders Ericsson.

Put simply, the 10,000 hour rule says that to achieve mastery in a field takes 10,000 hours (roughly 10 years) of practice.

Sadly, the last few times I’ve heard someone mention the 10,000 hour rule has been in this sort of context:

“I’ve done my 10,000 hours to gain mastery”

And every time I’ve heard it being said, has been by someone who has clearly not achieved mastery.

What is happening is that they think if they did something for 10 years, then they must be a master.

But this is where the original theory has been misinterpreted.

Just because you do something for 10,000 hours doesn’t mean you’re a master.

The 10,000 hours must consist of “deliberate practice”. This means pushing yourself, making mistakes, getting feedback, and continually improving.

Simply clocking in to your regular job, day in day out (even for 20 years) doesn’t make you a master.

This is similar to when you hear someone who is incompetent at their job justify their opinions by saying “I’ve been doing this for 20 years”. Doing something for a long time doesn’t make you competent.

For the record, it’s also not clear that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice applies to every field. With some it may be much less.

But the lesson here is, like with many other things in life, if you have to tell people you’ve done 10,000 hours, then you probably haven’t.

This article was originally published on Medium.com on May 4th 2016