Practice, practice, practice: the theory of 10,000 hours

Practice: v. to do or perform often, customarily, or habitually;  to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient; to train by repeated exercises

You know the story:

The tourist in Manhattan asks for directions: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

Helpful local: “Practice, practice, practice.”

I have resisted practicing since I was a kid – starting with violin at age 7,  piano at 10, and as an adult – meditation, yoga, writing, you name it.

Resistance is a child’s tactic against a pushy parent though. How many decades does it take to outgrow this worthless ploy?

By now I know full well that whenever I do something repeatedly my performance soars. But that doesn’t make it any easier to knuckle down.

Stephen King wrote about his own writing habit in his 1999 book On Writing.  He poo-poos writing workshops and says in a nutshell, if you want to become a better writer, write a LOT.  (He also says to read a lot, but that’s another topic).

He writes several hours a day. Every day. Including Christmas and the Fourth of July. And he’s got more than 30 bestsellers to show for it.

Daniel Levitin in This is Your Brain on Music talks about the theory of 10,000 hours:

… ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is the equivalent to roughly three hours per day, or twenty hours per week, of practice over ten years. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people don’t seem to get anywhere when they practice, and why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

Three hours a day (20 hours a week) for ten years. Or for the crash course, 40 hours a week for five years.

Alrighty then. At least I’ve gotten started.  Thank god there are at least 10,000 p-words. Check back with me in about twenty years.

18 responses to “Practice, practice, practice: the theory of 10,000 hours

  1. Some, however, are blessed with a natural talent.

  2. Oh yeah. The small matter of TALENT. I assume you wouldn’t want to dedicate yourself to daily three hour practice sessions if you didn’t have an aptitude for the instrument or endeavor.

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  4. For what it’s worth, I’ve created a free system to track progress toward 10,000 practice hours with WordPress.

  5. A (very talented) artist friend of mine says the same thing….practice practice practice….without it even a talented person won’t “succeed”…

  6. I have great respect for those who are willing to practice regularly despite still being crappy at the skill or art form.

  7. 1% talent, 99% practice.

  8. It’s all about deep practice, 6 mins can be as good as 1 hour.

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  10. 6 minutes of one person’s practice being as good as another person’s hour of practice only tells me the 2nd person is not being very effective.

  11. Dane Harnett

    Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

  12. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes PERMANENT. In a sense, 6 min could be more effective then an hour assuming it was good, focused, sensible practice. When it comes to music and many other art forms, people practice their mistakes too much! Engraining them so they become a permanent part of their playing.

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  16. Read the book THE OUTLIERS…Ivery interesting and addresses this, the beatles and Mozart…

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