10,000 Hours Rule (Outliers: The Story of Success)

“Ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything … composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals” – Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success.

Very inspirational book, highly recommended.

The author observed that, no one can become a world-class master in anything, without putting in about 10,000 hours of practice, in any field, and perhaps more importantly, no one can NOT become a world-class master, after putting in 10,000 hours of practice.

Geniuses don’t exist. They are merely a combination of opportunity and 10,000 hours of practice. They are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Makes sense if you think about it – you randomly pick a kid, tell him he has great potential to become the greatest hockey player ever, and put him through 10 years of 10 hours practice a day. In the end, you will get the greatest hockey player ever. Your prediction was correct.

Bill Gates was a high school kid at a time where only universities had computers. He went to a high school for rich people, with rich parents that decided to buy them a computer (opportunity). He programmed day and night for 10 years. 10,000 hours later, he became a world class programmer (at that time).

Mozart famously started composing at six, but he did not produce masterpieces until he was 20, by which time he has accumulated about 10,000 hours of practice.

Bobby Fischer, famous ex-World Chess Champion, also spent about 10 years of intense practice before becoming a grandmaster.

All NHL players were born in the right months, arbitrarily selected by their birthday when they were 8-9 years old (*), and put through about 10 years of intense practice.

There is no field in which anyone can become a world-class expert with less practice, or not become one with more practice.

Do I believe it? I don’t know. I’ll give it a try and let you know.

* NHL, and most other professional sport leagues, select players by their birthday. Funny? I thought so, too. And it’s true.

If you look at the birthday of NHL players, there are overwhelming number of players born in Jan, Feb, and March. Very few in the later months, October, November, December. Is it because people born in earlier months are more talented? Of course not.

To become a NHL player, one must be selected at an age of 8-9, in a tryout, for junior league. They don’t want to miss any “talent”, so it has to be done at a young age. Everyone are at the same age. That sounds fair? It does, until you realize that, people who are born on December 31 need to compete with people born on January 1, almost a whole year older. At an age of 8-9, kids grow A LOT in a year’s time. 9 year olds are much bigger and more coordinated than 8 year olds. Then the selected ones go through much more intense training, and self-fulfills their prophecy of being the most talented ones.

Someone reportedly went to talk to NHL about this. They agree. And they said they are not going to fix it because it’s “too complicated” to have to hold different tryouts for different month groups. They rather lose about half the talent.

So if you ever want your kids to become a NHL player, try to conceive in March, to give birth in January. If you accidentally give birth too early in December, might as well just tell him to pick up a new hobby. Painting or something, since he probably won’t get into any professional sport, because most of them also have January cutoff.

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