Debunking the 10,000 Hour Rule

Chances are you’ve heard about the “10,000 hour rule,” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, which posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master something – for instance, playing an instrument or playing a sport.

But now, one psychologist is claiming this isn’t true after all – it’s more complicated:

The “10,000-hour rule” — that this level of practice holds the secret to great success in any field — has become sacrosanct gospel, echoed on websites and recited as litany in high-performance workshops. The problem: it’s only half true. If you are a duffer at golf, say, and make the same mistakes every time you try a certain swing or putt, 10,000 hours of practicing that error will not improve your game. You’ll still be a duffer, albeit an older one.

No less an expert than Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose research on expertise spawned the 10,000-hour rule of thumb, told me, “You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal.”

“You have to tweak the system by pushing,” he adds, “allowing for more errors at first as you increase your limits.”

Read the rest here.

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  • markdroberts

    Thanks, Alissa. Makes sense, if you think of it. Think of your writing students. Some might spend 10,000 practicing their bad habits.