10,000 Hours

I found this extract of Gladwell’s new book via Quad. I also saw Gladwell’s book discussed on Slate, and somewhere else. I want to highlight this section:

This idea – that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, “this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… 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.”

So… 3 hours a day for 10 years to achieve expertise. That’s very practical advice. That’s a lot of time to spend in a day, but I do watch a lot of TV and I could easily cut most of that out without having lost anything. The real question is do I want to put in the work to master oratory or writing? It doesn’t seem as if I can do both. I guess that leads to another question: Which one will be more useful to me? Or maybe which one do I value more? If we look at past experience, it may seem as if I already have a penchant for writing. Yet when I imagine myself in the future, do I see myself as a writer or as an orator? If I want to be in front of crowds, I guess I have to work on my speaking skills.

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