How was the 10,000 hour rule of mastery finally exposed as an urban myth? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The research in Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Romer's paper The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance is good research and their conclusions are good conclusions. They have not been disproven.
If there is an "urban myth" aspect, it is because people don't read well. An urban myth has developed that their paper says you can master something simply by doing it for 10,000 hours. That idea is nonsense and that idea is not expressed in their research.
As the title of their paper makes clear, they were studying the role of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is focused. It requires that the persons involved be motivated, it requires that they perform tasks that stress the areas in which they require improvement, and it requires immediate feedback and contemplation of performance. So, just playing basketball every day for four hours isn't going to turn you into Michael Jordan. Playing golf for four hours a day isn't going to turn you into Tiger Woods. Playing songs for four hours a day isn't going to make you a Beatle. Coding for four hours a day isn't going to make you another Bill Gates. Writing for four hours a day isn't going to make you Charles Dickens. You would need constant feedback and practice that focused on your weaknesses.
In that paper, they also never explicitly say 10,000 hours. What they say is that their data indicates that people who are expert performers in some task got to that level by performing deliberate practice for up to 4 hours a day, five days a week for 10 years. 4 x 5 x 50 (assume they take two weeks of vacation) x 10 equals 10,000. That's where Malcolm Gladwell got his tag line number 10,000 hours that he talks about in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. Gladwell may have come up with the sound bite that caused the confusion, but he does clearly describe what their research said, so again, people can't read.
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