In his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success Malcom Gladwell sites a 1993 study in which K. Ericson Anders empirically asserts that the difference between a world class violinist and a music teacher is about 6, 000 hours of practice. Anders study involved studying music students at an elite music school in Europe and what he found, doesn’t defy common sense in defines common sense.
The study showed that when starting out at about age 8, all students practiced about 2 hours per week. By the age of 10, differences started to show. The best players were practicing 8 hours per week. By the time they were in their early twenties, the best players were practicing more than 30 hours per week and had accumulated over 10,000 hours of practice. Those who ended up as music teachers had only accumulated an average of 4,000 hours.
The implications of the study are that talent is not the differentiator, it’s practice. Players achieved greatness by putting in more time and more repetitions than their counterparts. But is it merely hustle that get’s you where you want? If you outwork the competition will you be on top? Not according to Aubrey C. Daniels at AubreyDanielsblog.com. He asserts that it is the kind of practice you put in that counts. In his blog post Expert Performance: Apologies to Dr. Ericsson, but it is not 10,000 hours of deliberate practice he gives the simple example of two basketball players, each shooting free throws for an hour. Player one’s approach is lackadaisical and he only shoots 50 free throws. Player 2 however, has someone retrieving his shots and recording if they were long, short, left or right. Player 2 stopped every 10 minutes and reviewed his pefromance. Which player is going to be better at the end of the two hours? Player 2 will be better, of course because he observed the results he was generating.
So who is right? Is it 10,000 hours or can it be less if you are deliberate with your practice? Greatness is not measured in time or talent; it is based on both of these and more. If you want to be great, you must be willing to pay the price for your dream. You have to put in the time your dream requires. Remember though, it’s not the hours you put in; it’s what you put in the hours. 10,000 hours to greatness? Maybe that’s the minimum; I don’t know. You may get there sooner. In my opinion, Anders, Gladwell and Daniels all leave out the most important point. It’s not what you achieve or how quickly you achieve it that matters. Who you become along the way is the true measure of your greatness. So put in your time. Get better as you go and when you look back you’ll be amazed at how much better you are then when you started.