Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 hours rule
There is a famous rule that you may have heard a lot whenever someone is talking about learning anything, it’s called the 10,000 hours rule. The rule is famously mentioned by author
Malcolm Gladwell in his book,
Outliers: The Story of Success. The book emphasized the fact that a person needs at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at anything. This means considering a person spends at least 5 hours every day to learn anything new, it would take a person 10 years!! to become a master of his / her craft.
The book includes examples of Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy (sometimes dubbed as “The Edison of the internet”), Mozart (the famous Austrian composer, widely regarded as a child prodigy during his time), The Beatles (the Popular English rock band), Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Hockey, and soccer players and emphasizes deliberate practice as one of the reasons for their success among other things.
Sometimes misunderstood and wrongly used
Like most things by Gladwell, this topic has been highly insightful, influential, and widely debated among others. One of the reasons for this debate is that people sometimes misunderstand the rule altogether. Most times people will often use some wrongly altered version of this rule stating that “A person needs 10,000 hours of practice to learn and get good at anything”, which not only is wrong but also quite self-defeating considering the original rule.
The original rule talks about deliberate practice for becoming an “expert” in the field. Most things in life do not require us to become experts in them, for example, things like washing dishes, solving a Rubix cube, getting good at mathematics, learning to code, playing violin, etc. can be learned and done by anyone well within 10,000 hours. Some of these things can be learned within a few hours of deliberate effort.
Key points behind the original 10,000 hours rule:
- It takes 10,000 hours to get at the top of an ultra-competitive field in a very narrow subject.
- All the ultra-competitive folks in ultra-high-performing fields spend more time in deliberate practice.
- The saying it takes 10,000 hours to learn something new is a hoax.
- It takes 10,000 hours for Expert-level performance.
A new rule to learn anything, the 20 Hour Rule
The Ted Talk by best-selling author,
Josh Kaufman in 2013 introduces the concept of
20 Hour Rule, which states that
We can learn any new skills with focused, deliberate practice in only 20 hours i.e 1 hour per day for 20 days.
In his Ted Talk, Josh suggests people get good at skills with just a little bit of practice. When we look at our daily lives, we often find that we use the 20-hour rule for most things, for example - for things like learning to ride a bike, learning a foreign language, picking up a new skill, all take nearly 20 hours or less to learn.
The 20-hour rule encourages initiative and can be followed by anyone who wants to learn and perfect a skillset. It could be anything that you want to learn, whether it be about academic research, music, chess, learning to drive a car, programming, etc. The interesting thing about it is that the same rule is followed by Coding Bootcamps, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and Crash courses for cracking interviews and competitive exams. 🙂
Although it is easy to see the applicability of the rule, how do you get started with it? Below are just a few steps that could help you gain a new skill faster.
4 simple steps to rapid skill acquisition
- Deconstruct the skill - Break a skill into smaller and smaller doable tasks
- Learn enough to self-correct - Get 3 to 5 resources about what you want to learn. Learn just enough so that you can self-correct/ self-audit.
- Remove practice barriers - eg. Distractions, television, internet, etc. All the things that get in the way of you sitting down and doing the work.
- Practice for at least 20 hours - Pre-commit to practice whatever it is, you want to learn for at least 20 hours.
By following the above 4 steps, you can be sure to learn anything through deliberate practice and effort. Now that you have learned everything about the 20-hour rule, you can start using it to learn anything.