I am not sure that I am the kind of person who can go head to head with Malcolm Gladwell on this. For starters I am no intellectual heavyweight.
Indeed when I first heard the theory it made sense.
On my run yesterday I was listening to a Podcast by a guy called Sean D’Souza of Pscychotactics.com.
The fact that stood out was that you can get your commercial flying license after only 1,500 hours. A long way from the suggested mastery level of the 10,000 hours. Although the FAA now state that you need 2,500 hours before you can become a captain.
You can get your private pilots license in 50 – 60 hours, now it may take a lot longer to become a master. Still to fly a plane on your own must imply a degree of competence.
Now flying, whilst to me might seem like magic, it is no becoming a Beethoven or even a Beatle. So maybe music like surgery which I touch on later is a different animal.
Let’s take a look at the numbers, based on a forty hour week.
1,500 hours is just 37.5 weeks. 10,000 hours is 250 weeks or approximately four years.
Is 37.5 weeks enough time to consider putting my life in someones hands. I think to an extent it depends on under what circumstances it is happening.
In a hospital in some specialisations it would be different.
To become a cardio-thoracic surgeon takes 15 years. This is one of the longest trainings. But you would still be performing life or death surgery long before that. If you are interested a Cardiac surgeons must complete four years of college. This is then followed by four years of medical school. Then a 5-year general surgery residency. And finally a 2-3 year specialized cardio or cardiothoracic fellowship.
To be honest if someone was going to cut around in my heart I would be pretty keen he had extensive experience. Still 15 years of medicine is a lot longer than 10,000 hours. Though not an expert I expect a lot less than 10,000 hours will actually be cutting up and around hearts.
But in a car if you have ever taught someone to drive then you are putting your life in their hands pretty quickly. Still the risk is a lot less than letting an amateur cut around your heart.
Tim Ferris has also spoken about this and is at the core of his Four Hour Chef. He says that you need to Pareto Principle the whole thing.
So if you need 10,000 hours to become expert, What is the 20% you can do to get 80% there? And 2,000 hours is a lot less than 10,000. But still it is almost a year. And if you spend a year on something you will know more than everyone else who hasn’t!
If you narrow that down again using the same principle three more times you get to just 16 hours. And 16 hours is enough to spend on most things to know more than the vast majority of the rest of the world who hasn’t!
In today’s internet age the world’s knowledge is at our fingertips. So anyone can pick up the bare bones of almost anything in a day or two – worst case scenario a week. Sure it may take longer to become good at it and even longer to become great or a master. Still 10,000 hours doesn’t seem realistic for most circumstances.
The key is that quality time focused on something will get you to expert level fast. Maybe not the world’s best but as a friend once told me: “Good enough is good enough.”
What do you think? Are you a fan of 10,000 hours. Have you done your 10,000 hours in something? I am not sure whether I actually have, unless you count reading or sitting in front of a computer!
Sean has a great podcast, highly professional with some great content on it. Well worth checking out. I am now off finally to give him a long overdue review.
Time spent writing: 30 minutes.
Time From Starting Writing to Finishing: 35 minutes
Time Editing: 10 minutes
How Happy I am with Result: 6