I recently read the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. I have mentioned this book in a previous post about giving up. I made reference to the 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. In that post I estimated that I practice about 240 hours a year. Now, that I’ve been taking lessons for 5 years, I’m probably at about 1,200 hours of practice. At this rate, I will need another 20 years before I become an expert organist! But do I really need 10,000 hours???
Does the 10,000 hour rule apply to every profession?
According to the book, those who practice the most are the experts and the outliers. Those that start the at the youngest age will stand out and get more opportunities as they are slightly better/more advanced than others at the same age. These opportunities lead to even more practice. A couple of the examples in book are Olympic athletes and pro hockey players in Canada.
And sometimes it’s all about being in the right place, the right time and even being born at the right year (examples, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs). So some of the book was a bit of downer. What if you weren’t born at the right time to have a the best chance of being an outlier in a particular field? There was not a chapter on this which was a bit disappointing.
This was my first reaction to the book. But perhaps, I missed that point of the book. The goal of the book may have been to explain how those that are super successful (outliers) got there – a lot of practice, opportunities, and some luck.
Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule has caused a stir and many articles have debunked it, including this one from Business Insider. Regardless, I believe I will be a better organist once I have 10,000 hours of practice compared to the 1,200 I have practiced so far.
Can we all become outliers?
The short answer is No. Merriam-Webster defines an outlier as a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample. Just by definition alone everyone cannot be an outlier. If we were all at the same level than there would not be any outliers.
Does it matter?
We can be successful even if we are not an outlier. We can still work hard and practice at whatever we want to do. Not everyone needs or wants to be an outlier. I’d just like to get to point where I’m successful enough to play for a church.
For musicians, how we practice makes a difference too. Dr. Noa Kageyama explains how long a practice session should be and tips for effective practice in his post How many hours a day should you practice. If I apply his suggestions to my practice, I will become an expert much faster!
What do you think about the 10,000 hour “rule” and outliers? Do you think anyone become an outlier in their profession or hobby?