Can 10,000 hours practice make you an expert in anything?
The 10,000-hours concept can be traced back to a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. A group of psychologists in Berlin, studied the practice habits of violin students in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. All had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only done 4,000 hours of practice.
Ericsson concluded that “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”. Ericsson then pointed out that 10,000 was an average, and that many of the best musicians in his study had accumulated “substantially fewer” hours of practice. He underlined, also, that the quality of the practice was important.
One of the difficulties with assessing whether expert-level performance can be obtained just through practice is that most studies are done after the subjects have reached that level. Maybe talented people just practise more and try harder at the thing they’re already good at – because they enjoy it?
Following our passion for something is how we direct our energy into a task and do it well, which is exactly what we would expect of successful people, they have the enthusiasm and determination (and talent?) to achieve their vision which motivates them to keep going when others stop. So passion, innate talent or a mixture of both?
In any event, American Dan McLaughlin is putting the theory to the test. In 2010 at the age of 30, with no previous experience of golf he left his job as a photographer with a vision that in 10,000 hours of practice he would become a professional golfer.
“I began the plan in April 2010 and I basically putted from one foot and slowly worked away from the hole,” he says. “Eighteen months into it I hit my first driver and now it’s approaching four years and I’m about half way. So I’m 5,000 hours into the project. My current handicap is right at a 4.1 and the goal is to get down to a plus handicap [below zero] where I have the skill set to compete in a legitimate PGA tour event.”
What Dan is hoping is that what he lacked in innate talent, he more than makes up for with his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
If Dan’s plan goes well he could be mixing it with the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in 2018. If not, he will just be a very good golfer.
For Ben Carter’s full article see @BBCNewsMagazine
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