Ten Thousand Hours
The first book I read, not assigned to me, was Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. I read it, then listened to it on my long commute to my senior year classes. It had a big impact on me. Not only did it kick start me realizing I needed to read, but the focal point of the book, the Ten Thousand Hour Rule made sense to me. If I wanted to get good, at anything, I needed to put in the time.
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. It’s not just about showing up and putting in the hours, it’s about how you put in the hours. In Peak, Anders Ericsson, claims Gladwell simplified his research to appeal to our desire for cause-and-effect relationships. In the original research, Ericsson and colleagues gathered data of solitary hours played for upcoming violinists.
Not surprisingly, the best students accumulated the most practice. The better students, the second most. The good students, who were exceptional, but not world class, practiced less than the best and better students.
The point Ericsson makes though, is that is isn’t just about the hours. It’s about the type of practice. Specifically, what he calls deliberate practice. That is, practice that has immediate feedback, internal motivation, deep focus and has the practitioner slightly out of their comfort zone. He claims, not only did the best students accumulate the most hours, but they were the best at practicing as well.
There are no shortcuts. It takes time and focus to get better at anything. It’s not going to happen without serious effort. If this overwhelms you, it shouldn’t. It should empower you. You have the ability to get better, and there’s a blueprint of how to do it. You just need to be willing to put forth the effort.