10,000 Hour Myth

There is a widely-known rule that 10,000 hours of practice is what you need to do to achieve mastery in a specific field. It's catchy and easy to remember. But does it work this way?

There are at least two problems with that rule:

  • Not all practice is equally helpful. The rule focuses on the quantity of time practicing and not the quality. I've met people with many hours of training during my career, yet not very experienced, and vice versa.

  • Not everyone starts from the same place. Aside from genetics and age, people begin with distinct backgrounds and experiences. Depending on your starting conditions, it may be easier or harder to achieve mastery of a specific skill.

As I imagine it, we should somehow develop these neural connections in our brain. The mastery level highly depends on our unconscious understanding of how to apply a skill. That understanding develops with so-called deliberate practice. In other words, we should change our neural network so that it is more suitable to solve particular problems. And the current structure of our neural network defines the shortest possible time required to do that transformation.

Here is what I think should help to speed up learning a new skill:

  • Focus on the quality of practice, not the quantity.
  • Find connections and associations of new knowledge with your existing background and experience.