The 10000 Hour Myth

You are familiar with it. We have all been exposed to it.

The “10,000 hours to mastery” idea has been discussed in many business books and general books about life. However, I believe that Malcolm Gladwell was the one who began it all, or perhaps it was research that he made public.

The argument that will be presented is that talent is not innate. However, it is possible to cultivate talent. You only need to put in a lot of work by practicing repeatedly. He even went so far as to calculate the least amount of time you need to practice to reach “mastery,” and he determined that the minimum amount of time required is 10,000 hours. The argument goes like this: look at all these incredible, brilliant people and how they have succeeded in their respective industries. Even if you were to question them directly, they would not attribute it to skill. They won’t beat about the bush when they tell you that getting to where they are now required a lot of sweat and toil. Some people put in even more than 10,000 hours of labor on it. However, it appears that this is the bare minimum.

In the study, participants included world-famous chess players, superstar tennis players, basketball stars, classical singers, and more. It’s been proven repeatedly that perseverance and hard work are more important than natural skills and are the driving forces behind success.

As a result, we continue to believe that to become experts at anything, all we need to do is put in a lot of effort and spend 10,000 hours at it. So although it wasn’t easy, it was straightforward.

Just one little point of contention. When you consider the many areas in which the individuals mentioned above achieved great success, you will see some fascinating parallels. You might argue that Yo-Yo-Ma and Michael Jordan couldn’t be more different from one another, and you wouldn’t be wrong. They are not comparable in any way. However, their “fields of play” are pretty similar.

You are probably asking yourself, “How is playing the cello similar to playing basketball? They are poles apart in every way imaginable. However, they are!

These areas and the ones mentioned above have strict rules, norms, and regulations. In almost every sport, game, and musical genre, players are expected to adhere to a predetermined set of guidelines. If you violate the rules, you will not succeed. If you give it some thought, you’ll see that these “worlds” or fields are part of a particular aspect of reality. They are similar to video games but with a more contained universe. There is a limited number of things that are permitted, but there is a vast number of others that are not. If you give it some thought, it’s like how artificial intelligence players can get good at games like Dota 2; the game’s universe only has a restricted set of rules to follow.

If you play inside these “worlds,” it is likely that 10,000 hours of gameplay will be enough to achieve mastery within that particular “world,” where the rules seldom change. This level of perseverance and effort is sufficient to produce results.

But what about everything that exists outside those worlds?

What about the actual world, with its minimal number of guidelines? What about the realm of new technologies and fledgling businesses? Some things are legal and things that are not, but within the realm of lawful things, there is a near-infinite number of ways to proceed. The regulations that govern the corporate world are constantly shifting. Because the rules are continuously being updated – the rules that were in effect when Facebook and the iPhone were created are very different from the rules that are in place today – releasing a product that is comparable to either of those products today will not result in the creation of a new Facebook or a new iPhone.

The real world is nearly entirely unexplored by the player. Since of this, we cannot just replicate past successes as they were because everything is constantly evolving. The rules are continuously being updated. They have even altered between the time you read the first line of this article and the one you are currently reading in this post.

How are you supposed to achieve your goals when the rules are constantly shifting, when things that were successful in the past no longer apply, and vice versa? If there isn’t a road plan to success, how can you possibly navigate to it?

It is not difficult at all. You choose to disregard Yoda and attempt. Experiment with a wide variety of options and discover what ends up working best. Make a significant number of little bets on many uncertain outcomes rather than a few large bets on a small number of “guaranteed things.” It’s part of a venture capitalist’s job. It’s what the most innovative new businesses do (MVP and openness to pivoting). It’s a practice adopted by the most forward-thinking companies.

It is the action that you ought to do. You won’t be confident of victory, but doing so will improve your odds to the greatest extent possible. If you are not currently employed in any of the “worlds with rules” described in the paragraphs, immediately before this one, you should take those 10,000 hours, try 10,000 different things, and see what stands out.