In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell published a book that would become a bestseller, called Outliers. In it, he introduced an idea that caught the imagination of people everywhere -- that becoming an expert required 10,000 hours of intentional practice.
It's an exciting thought if you think about it...
So: What is the only thing standing between you and that amazing novel/guitar solo? Could it boil down to time, brute force, and concerted effort?
Well .... maybe not. (It depends really....)
Of course, careful practice isn't going to make you worse at a skill. But there's more to success than perfecting mechanics.
Here are a few ways the 10,000-hour rule can actually be a stumbling block.
It only helps with certain activities
Scientists took a look at the difference deliberate practice made in a range of activities. It turns out that it helps the most in situations with rigid rules. So for example it improves the outcome by MOST sporting games by 26%. However, this isn't the case with professional practice where there was only 1% attributed improvement. Hence, if you're looking for success in a field with "fluid" expectations, like business development, for example, it's almost impossible to know what skills to REALLY focus on and improve. Hence, you could be doing 10,000 hours of "useless" stuff, that will not make you better at the profession.
Sometimes you need a touch of failure
The idea that you can work on something until it's destined for success is tempting, especially when you're not that excited about falling on your face. But research shows that nearly winning is like rocket fuel for motivation. To be fair, this isn't about huge failure, but about coming so close to your goal that it hurts. But the only way to get that dose of forward momentum is by getting in the game. Diligence is great, but it's not going to rev your passion.
Speaking of which...
Passion trumps goals
The best way to predict success, according to this study on West Point cadets, is intrinsic motives. In other words, if you believe in what you're striving for, you're going to work harder to get there. What they didn't expect is that extrinsic goals (things like fame and fortune) actually hinder success. If your motivation is a passionate belief in what you're doing, you're going to keep searching out a way to get there. If your motivation is the goodies that getting there will give you, it's a lot harder to sustain the search.
Practice is important. Imagination without work is generally kind of a mess. But at the same time, progress is usually a messy process. Go ahead and embrace the work, but don't let that keep you from diving into the mess of learning.
Get out a Wipebook whiteboard notebook and explore your ideas.
Work it out.
There's nothing quite as powerful as the sweet spot where enthusiasm meets hard work.