The Myth

On LinkedIn, many losers brag about the years of experience they have.

In reality, a person could have one year of shitty experience repeated for the next 19 years.

Can he therefore claim to have 20 years of experience?

This begs the question: What does it really take to become an expert in a given field?

According to Malcom Gladwell – who in my view is somewhat of a half-baked hyperbolic con artist – in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, the answer is 10,000 hours.

“A provocative generalization,” is what Anders Ericsson calls the 10,000 hour rule. And it was Ericsson’s research on expert musicians that Gladwell cites as a basis for the rule. Ericsson says the rule is an oversimplification, and in many ways, an incorrect interpretation of his research.

Ericsson says, the number 10,000 is totally arbitrary and not really based on anything substantial.

It’s merely a metaphor.

Gladwell also estimates that the Beatles put in 10,000 hours of practice playing in Hamburg in the early 1960s, and that Bill Gates put in 10,000 hours of programing work before founding Microsoft.

Hence the 10,000 hour rule came into being: put in your 10,000 hours of practice, and become an expert.

Easy-peasy, right?

10,000 hours is a common rule of thumb. It’s catchy and easy to remember, but it’s pure bullshit

It leads to a misconception that anyone can become an expert in a given area by putting in the time.

Practice, however, doesn’t always make perfect.

I concede that years of concerted effort and practice may indeed make someone an expert in something.

But while the time spent doing the same thing over and over again may help, it is far from the only factor. A person’s genetic makeup, when he starts, and how he learns, all combine to determine how many hours it would take him to master a specific craft – or if “mastery” is possible at all.

Bottom line: don’t be hoodwinked by self-proclaimed experts, pseudo-scientists and writers of pop psychology books.

They are not psychologists or research scientists, most of the time, they are just book sellers, first and foremost.

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