How Many Hours of Practice is Necessary to Achieve Success?


What is the 10,000 hour rule?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book entitle Outliers, he discusses a concept known as “The 10,000 hour rule”.  This is a rule that states there are a magical number of hours that a person needs to practice before true expertise in any field is possible. That number is 10,000 hours.  

Research was conducted by K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music. They conducted research on students and found that while all students had begun practicing violin around the same time, age five, the amount of time each had devoted to practicing varied widely. “In the first few years, everyone practice roughly the same about of time about two or three hours a week”. However as the student got older, the amount of time that each practice began to show huge differences so that by the time the students were 20 years old, the elite group of violinist had been practicing about 30 hours a week, which at the end totaled 10,000 hours of practice. The same group of psychologist then compared the amateur pianists and professional pianists and found the same picture. The elites by the age of 20-year-old had been practicing 10,000 hours.

Is it possible to become elite in your craft without the 10,000 hours?

Malcolm asserts that Erickson and his group in their studies “could not find any “naturals” musician who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time of their peers. More importantly, the researchers could not find any “grinds”, people who had worked harder than anyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks”

Does this rule apply to anyone despite his/her chosen field?

According to Malcolm, the researchers did not stop at just musicians. “In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concerto pianists, chess players, master criminals… this number comes up again and again”. “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness”.

How long does it take to total 10,000 hour of practice?

Malcolm assets these 10,000 hours of practice normally takes about 10 years to achieve. This is assuming, the person has the opportunity or makes the opportunity to practice roughly 3 hours a day. Let’s look at some examples.

  • In practicing 1 hour a day, 7 days a week, a person totals 365 hours for the year, assuming practicing 1 hour every day.  Thus, this will take a person 27 years to reach 10,000 hours of practice.
  • In practicing 2 hours a day, 7 days a week, one will have clocked 730 hours for the year. Thus it will take a person half the time as example 1. That is 13.5 years.
  • In practicing 3 hours a day, 7 days a week, one will have clocked 1092 hours for the year. Thus in 9 years, the person would have totaled 9828 hours of practice.
  • In practicing 4 hours a day, 7 days a week, this practice time for the year will total 1456. Thus, taking the person 6 years.
  • In practicing 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, this total time for the year would total 2912. A person can reach the 10,000 hours in 3 ½ years.

As the examples show, the more time that a person can devote to practicing each day, the sooner he/she can reach that 10,000 hour rule.

How important is one’s support network?

Ten Thousand hours is a lot of time.  If a person practices just a few hours a week, it will take him/her longer to reach that expertise level.  As the above examples shows, a person will achieve the 10,000 hours in 27 years if he/she practice just 1 hour a day. If a person practices a lot of hours a week, the opposite if that case. Yet, how can a person possible practice that many hours a day particular with school, after school activities, or work to do as well?

Malcolm asserts that it is impossible to reach this number without support and the opportunity to devote time to practicing. As a kid, you must have parents [support network] who encourages and support you. You can’t be poor because if you have to hold down a part-time job… to make end meets, there won’t be time left in the day to practice enough. Malcolm goes on to asset that “most people can reach that number only if they get into some kind of special program or if they get some kind of extraordinary opportunity that give them a chance to put in those hours?

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