How does accumulation of knowledge/skill work in case of the 10,000 hours rule? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Ken Mazaika, CTO @ thefirehoseproject.com, on Quora:

The media abused the 10,000 hours rule.

They turned it into something completely different.

By initiating a massive game of telephone, they've made us think that it takes 10,000 hours to be any good at something.

It was supposed to mean that it takes 10,000 hours to become one of the best in the world at something.

It's a problem, especially for people who are just starting to learn something. It makes them think that they'll never have enough hours to become good enough to make a difference in their field of choice. And it makes a lot of people decide to give up quickly or never start in the first place.

The idea that you have to practice for 10,000 hours just to get good enough at something simply isn't true. Here's why.

You probably won't accumulate enough knowledge to become the best in your area of expertise. I know I haven't. I'm a programmer, so I'll use an example from my industry.

If you define "good enough" as having the ability to land a job as a developer, then the media's version of the 10,000 hours rule completely falls apart.

You don't need 10,000 hours of relevant practice to land a job as a developer because that's not how the real world works. That's because there is a massive disconnect between what students are learning at universities and what developers are building at innovative tech companies.

CS graduates spend most of their time programming and working on theoretical concepts. They then land jobs as junior developers and start working with an entirely different set of responsibilities, with the expectation that they will learn on the job.

The number of hours is irrelevant. You don't have to attain expert status before you step into a job interview.

I've done a lot of programming:

  • I've spent 10,000 hours practicing the skill
  • I've practiced for over five years, for about 40 hours per week.

But I'm not one of the best programmers in the world. I'm not because I would have to be one of the top 5-10 out of 18.2 million developers worldwide. Having said that, I'd like to think that I'm pretty good.

As a beginner in programming or in pretty much any other technical field, you are going to face challenges that you can't figure out on your own. Don't count the hours, hoping that something will magically change after a certain number of them.

Instead, just focus on what matters.

Start diving in, and you'll soon realize that anything can be understood:

  • You'll lean on Google search to help get you answers.
  • You'll learn how to teach yourself new concept on the fly.
  • You'll self-correct.
  • And you'll figure out how to get yourself back on track when problems arise.

You'll find out that the only hour that matters is the time in which you're currently learning. Then you'll discover that you're capable of learning anything.

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Published on: Jan 25, 2017