The 10,000 Hour Rule Is Wrong: How to Really Master a Skill

Rob Nightingale Updated 07-12-2019

How many hours does it take to master a skill? Well, if you read Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Outliers, you’ll remember that “10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness.” This 10-000 Hour Rule is a heavily cited pedagogy in the world of lifelong learning. But I have some good news!


It turns out that this is not what the research shows. The 10,000 hour rule is wrong. Put differently: For any skill you’re trying to master, you can become extremely proficient in much less time than Gladwell suggests. Keep reading to find out how.

The 10,000 Hour Rule

In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell published his New York Times bestseller, Outliers. It’s within this book—based largely on the research of Anders Ericsson—that Gladwell frequently talks about the 10,000-Hour Rule, citing it as “the magic number of greatness.”

The book looks at a number of “outliers”, people who are extraordinarily proficient in certain subjects or skills. It then tries to break down what helped them to become outliers.

According to Gladwell, one common factor among these carefully selected individuals was the amount of time they practiced within their area of study. It appeared that only by reaching 10,000 hours of practice (that’s about 90 minutes per day for 20 years) could one become an outlier. To use another of Gladwell’s popular terms, 10,000 hours is the “Tipping-Point” of greatness. You can see him explaining this here:

In the years following the book’s publication, this 10,000-Hour Rule has become a platitude for almost anyone wanting to become highly proficient in any skill, at any point in their lives. This is despite increasing evidence showing that the 10,000-Hour Rule is largely inaccurate.


This inaccuracy is good news for any of us looking to become adept at a new skill. Where Gladwell’s rule promised us a massive undertaking to achieve proficiency, it could instead be much easier than you’ve been led to believe.

The 10,000 Hour Rule Is Wrong

Anders Ericsson is a Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. It’s on the back of his research on Deliberate Practice Want To Become An Expert At Something? Try Deliberate Practice It's all too easy to feel crestfallen when you're arduously trying to improve a certain skill. Use the power of "deliberate practice" to get you over those infuriating plateaus. Read More that Gladwell constructed his book and his 10,000-Hour Rule. Some people have misattributed this rule to Ericsson himself, which he sought to correct due to its misrepresentation of his actual findings.

Ericsson describes what could only be Gladwell’s work as:

“[A] popularized but simplistic view of our work, which suggests that anyone who has accumulated sufficient number of hours of practice in a given domain will automatically become an expert and a champion.”

Ericsson went on record clarifying that this is not what his research shows. Within that study, there was no magic number for greatness. 10,000 hours was not actually a number of hours reached, but an average of the time elites spent practicing. Some practiced for much less than 10,000 hours. Others for over 25,000 hours.


Additionally, Gladwell fails to adequately discriminate between the quantity of hours spent practicing, and the quality of that practice. This misses a huge portion of Ericsson’s findings, and seems to be the reason why Tim Ferriss scoffs at Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule in this video.

Additionally, another of Ericsson’s studies looks at skills which can be mastered in “a minute fraction of the 10,000 hours estimated to be necessary to attain high levels of expert performance” by using very specific, deliberate methods of practice.

The takeaway is that practice may be important, but it’s far from the whole story. Gladwell has succumbed to survivor bias. By focusing on what the successful did to get to the top, he has failed to satisfactorily account for the multitudes who logged their 10,000+ hours, yet still failed to attain mastery.

To add more weight to this argument, another study in Intelligence journal attributed practice to only “about one-third of the reliable variance in performance in chess and music”. The largest meta-analysis in the field found that practice may be responsible for as little as 12% of mastery.


That means there’s far more to mastering a skill than just months or years of practice. Genetics and the amount of competition in a given area play some role, for sure. But science is also giving us glimpses into what else we can do to learn more efficiently.

Tactics for Learning Faster

In recent years there has been a flurry of interest in skill acquisition, and particularly rapid skill acquisition. Tim Ferriss penned The Four-Hour Chef—a 672-page behemoth—tackling this very subject.

Throughout his book Ferriss introduced millions of readers to the idea of meta-learning. That is, the learning about learning. Once we understand how our brain and body learn, we can create a far more efficient learning routine.

In fact, Ferriss, during a SXSWi presentation claimed:


I believe you can become world-class in any skill in 6 months or less

This may or may not be an exaggeration, but what Ferriss is emphasizing here is the quality of practice over the quantity. Even if the real figure is two-years, not six-months (to become world-class in almost any skill) it’s a huge improvement on Gladwell’s disheartening 10,000-Hour Rule.

What’s more, studies in both science and psychology are repeatedly showing us new—or at least more nuanced—ways of learning. These refined tactics and strategies are able to help us become proficient, expert, masterful, or at least very good in a specific domain in a lot less time than we might suppose.

Let me give you just a few of these.

1. Create a Feedback Loop

By creating a feedback loop, you’re creating a way to more accurately spot your errors and identify potential improvements to your learning routine. One study conducted at Brunel University, UK explains:

“A feedback loop [provides]…the necessary information for adaptive measures to achieve the desired levels of teaching and learning objectives.”

Acquiring the necessary information to get to the desired objective is precisely what rapid skill acquisition is about. It’s about finding out exactly what you need to change to reach your goal more quickly.

Feedback loop

For some skills, you’ll be able to track results and measurements yourself. One easy option is to collect progress data using Google Forms Track Key Areas of Your Life In 1-Minute with Google Forms It is amazing what you can learn about yourself when you take the time to pay attention to your daily habits and behaviors. Use the versatile Google Forms to track your progress with important goals. Read More to provide you with feedback. You can then use this data to adjust your future approach.

For other skills, you might need feedback from elsewhere: a mastermind group How A Mastermind Group Can Help You Achieve More Goals The term 'mastermind group' is being thrown around a lot in the personal development sphere these days, but what exactly are they, do they work, and how could you set up your own group? Read More , or critiquing groups such as these photography critiquing groups 8 Places to Get Feedback on Your Photos One of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to gather genuine feedback from people who know what they’re talking about. These eight sites are where you can do just that. Read More , for example.

There are similar communities and forums for virtually anything you want to study. The experts in each of these offer an invaluable feedback loop to help you keep improving.

2. Deliberate Practice

To go back to Anders Ericsson, much of his research has been focused on Deliberate Practice. The following video explains it well.

Deliberate Practice is seen by some as one of the most efficient ways to learn. That is, to focus very deliberately on the narrow sub-skills needed to make up an overall skill.

Based on his research on Deliberate Practice, Ericsson writes:

“The effects of mere experience [of performing a skill] differ greatly from those of Deliberate Practice, where individuals concentrate on actively trying to go beyond their current abilities.”

Unsurprisingly, Deliberate Practice is hard. Ericsson found that elite athletes, writers, and musicians could only sustain the concentration needed for Deliberate Practice for relatively short periods of time. Their concentration on very specific skills, and sub-skills, however, ensured they continued to improve and perform at the top of their game.

3. Become a Teacher

The idea of learning through teaching isn’t new. But after a certain amount of research, the National Training Laboratories felt confident enough to release The Learning Pyramid. This is a simple diagram showing the rough retention rates to be expected through various forms of teaching. The pyramid has its opponents, but for many, it remains a reliable guideline.

The Learning Pyramid

As you can see, passive learning approaches offer relatively low levels of retention. Unfortunately, this is what we often rely on when picking up a new skill, especially as adults.

Participatory methods, however, offer much more promise. “Group Discussions” (50% retention), as mentioned previously, could be fostered through mastermind groups or online critiques. “Practice by Doing” (75% retention) is where Deliberate Practice comes in. But with “Teaching Others” reportedly offering a 90% retention rate, we cannot ignore this strategy.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” –Einstein

Whether you’re already proficient, or a complete novice here isn’t important. If you’re an expert looking to improve, you have a lot to teach. If you’re a novice, you can document and explain what you’re learning to others.

Deciding to become a teacher means thoroughly understanding a very specific area of study before being able pass on that knowledge others. This gives you the motivation and responsibility to really get to grips with a topic.

If you’re at an advanced level, you could use sites like Private Tutoring At Home to find tutoring gigs. If you wanted something with less responsibility, you could answer relevant questions on Quora, Reddit, or a relevant online forum.

Or if you want to keep things simple, start a WordPress blog Set Up Your Blog With WordPress: The Ultimate Guide Want to start your own blog but don't know how? Look to WordPress, the most powerful blogging platform available today. Read More to share your findings, methods, and results. If you don’t want to set up a blog, you can publish directly to Medium, or even start a YouTube channel 7 Things to Consider When Starting a YouTube Channel Starting a successful YouTube channel isn't easy, but if you keep these tips in mind, you'll be ahead of the curve! Read More to share what you’re learning.

How Many Hours Does It Really Take?

As explained, Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule is based on very unstable foundations. Luckily for us, the alternative is far more preferable.

By paying close attention to how you structure your practice time, How to Learn Any Skill with Your Own Solid Training Plan How will you achieve your goals? Dreaming and planning are just the start. You need the right mix of technological and psychological tools to carry out your self-training program. Read More introducing feedback loops, deliberate practice, and an aspect of teaching into your learning methods, you can become highly proficient at most skills in far less time than you might otherwise think. And these top how-to sites The 12 Best How-To Sites That Everyone Should Bookmark Need some help with life's chores and tasks? Here are some of the best how-to sites that everyone needs to bookmark today. Read More can aid you in your quest to pick up new skills.

Related topics: Education Technology, Motivation, Study Tips.

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  1. Glen
    December 1, 2019 at 6:44 am

    10,000 hrs? I think it would depend on many factors like is it sport ,academics ,music and craftsmanship and a lot more. There are many with that much practice remain at a back ground level average ,and others who excel in a very short time in comparison. It would depend a lot on how passionate the person is about the activity and how intelligently and diligently they practice their endeavour. along with natural ability.There are many examples where a person has had a meteoric rise and then becomes the top of their field. There is genius in almost everyone if you can find something your a genius at which many never do. That changes the game if you do. So many skill sets are required to be at the elite level in anything ,in sport there is a lot of psychological challenges involving fear, physical fitness ect. Not everyone is even capable of becoming as fit as the elite competitors and just have to realize their capabilities physically cannot reach that level. But I think passion/ smart practice is necessary for you to succeed and is the major driver to get to the highest level you can achieve . No matter how many hours you put in. Maybe more or less than 10,000 hrs.

  2. cladsam
    July 26, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Just for the record, consider academic studies for a moment.
    The "bachelor master doctorate" system in Europe assume studies to be made of 60 ects (european credits) par academic year.
    The doctorate is to be achieved after 8 years of academic studies.
    The system assume on average 25 to 30 hours of student work by credit.
    Which mean somewhere between 8*60*25 and 8*60*30 which means between 12000 and 14400 hours to get the PhD.
    That is more than the 10 000 hours and you may have a PhD in mathematics and still not be worth the field medal ... so 10 000 in some field will no make you an outlier, not even close ... unless you are gifted.
    I doubt it took Evariste Gallois 10 000 hours to become an outlier in Maths.

  3. coolhand850
    May 15, 2019 at 12:17 am

    Not true. The 10,000 hour rule is definitely correct in every way, except it is not nearly enough. Get up to about 60,000 hours plus and I am quite certain anyone with average talent and average intelligence can become an expert in a wide variety of disciplines. The ones that always criticize this rule are the majority of people with no drive or passion.

  4. Michael Kling
    April 23, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Yeah, go out and spend 10,000 hours trying to dunk a basket ball. Practice is a small part of mastering. You have to have particular innate abilities to really become a master at a particular "skill".

  5. Ahti Tamm
    November 23, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    I think Gladwell is correct. Assuming average talent, if you want to get really good at something, it does take 10 000 hours. Really good means not some basic proficiency, but top 0,01% - an outlier. That one guy in 10 000 who all try to make it. And I have personal experience to back this up. I have done it in a game called World of Tanks, played by over 120 million people, with 21 million playing in EU server, my peer group. After putting in 7 years of practice averaging at 30 hours a week (that's 10 920 hours, so I would say the rule applies), I made it to EU Top 400 players, for a few months being among the 0,0019 percentile, 1 in 52 500 players.

  6. mac
    October 12, 2018 at 5:24 am

    I'm most interested in becoming a great musician, specifically a multi-instrumentalist.

    For the record: I'm a "young adult" as a singer 25+ years, and in my awkward teen years as a drummer and pianist, about 13 years each.

    I can tell my listening how long a player has playing. I don't think I've ever been off by more than 5 years, either.

    I'm a big fan of the following:

    videotape (so to speak, as it's obviously digital). In music, this means a close, accurate eye on your hands.

    "It takes a long time to sound like yourself " as Miles Davis said.

    I suggest, some sort of basic practice: scales, rudiments, metronome work. Slow and boring as possible. 40 bpm. Bernard Purdie is about 60 years playing, that's what he does. To this day.

    Leads us to: you want what they got, you gotta do what they do. Buddy Rich had a book on snare technique. At its simplest form, it's accents in 4/4 on the 1, 2, 3, 4 and then in 3/4, then bounces at 120, same patterns.

    Even ignoring the off-time syncopations, (ands, es and uhs) I still had tremendous improvement doing just that in short order.

    You need a good coach to sit opposite you so you can watch their hands on a practice pad. 5 minutes of that is worth EASILY an hour online because of the latency issue in video calling.

    Go out to any jam nite and play anything with anyone at any time. Look at stuff you NEVER do, in particular. After under a month, you'll be a million times better. Appreciate stupid problems: not being able to hear, bad, worn-out gear, crowds ignoring you, players who don't know the song after they said they did, bad bass players or drummers (foundation of everyone else). You learn how to pull or push a bad bass player right away (drummer always wins this argument) and find and appreciate a good one. How to ignore drunk singers and annoying guitar players, and not let it affect your playing. Once you're the conductor of the train, you don't stop the song, even if your rug catches fire (so to speak, kind of had this happen due to a very damp carpet, lest I jinx it) learn VERY fast how to "fix it." Experts are not perfect at anything BUT fixing it and not be obvious about it

    90+% of the time, the answer is SLOW DOWN. To practice a song that's driving you crazy or regain control of a song live.

    You'll learn more by bad or inexperienced players than great ones. ALWAYS show gratitude for all of them. Don't be a jerk. You don't know when someone will need a player.

    In voice, Whiteny Houston and Michel Jackson did at least 4 hours a day. If you do 30 minutes of scales, daily, you'll make lots of improvement or make it smoother or more stable. Voice is a lot like stick shifting. It needs to be seamless. Jump over the notes, never try to grab them from a lower note. You'll run out of space.

    Programs like Playground Sessions help teach reading on piano. Still boils down to slow down and repeat. It's objective, but stupidly so. It will lock in your timing, for certain. But it only knows what's on the page. It can hitch up after long time frames of use, forcing a total shut down and boot up (not restart).

    Tape will help you see and hear flaws. Then you take notes on the whole band. This saves a LOT of time debating the flaws.

  7. Mitch
    September 15, 2018 at 5:01 am

    The author takes down Gladwell and replaces one snake oil salesman with another.

    • Craig
      May 14, 2019 at 12:25 pm

      Spot on. Tim Ferriss is for sure a greasy character. "Four Hour Workweek"? Riiiiiight. (Go read the summaries.)

  8. Aideen
    June 3, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. It's been helpful in understanding how to become good at something, how to learn. However.....I'm at a loss as to what I should try to be good at. I don't believe I could be an expert at anything I try my hand at. I have talents and skills already that will make some areas easier to excel at. Some areas are more beneficial to excel in....what really matters to me? What to I really want to be an expert at?? Any food for thought on where to direct my that you've covered how to do that??

  9. Alistan
    April 1, 2018 at 6:09 am

    I'd love to share my experience..

    So... I've recently had a career change.. And unknowingly I spent a year and half.. Complete.. dedicated time... I managed to master aspects of the trade.. I think the 10,000 hour rule applies when you're completely committed to the cause ( mind ya! I haven't read nothing on it)If you simply have a go at it knowing you have 10,000 hours youve already put a cap on it.. Learning is infinite.. However.. Given dedicated time.. Anything can be mastered. Again.. Truly believe In yourself.. And cannonball!

  10. Sagar
    June 29, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Nice article Rob! I, however, have a question regarding deliberate practice. Is it also not euqally important on what you do after deliberate practice?
    For ex, to become an athlete you not only have to practice and push your body to limits each time (say about 1-2hrs ), but also to look after your body properly post deliberate practice and not feeding junk to your body. In this context what is your opinion on deliberate practice that involves cognitively demanding task (something can also be called as "Deep work" as suggested by Cal Newport) like researching in the academic labs or in the industry? What should a person do after deliberate practice? You can't feed your brain with some junk, right? Just relax, meditate, spend quality time with family etc? I don't find information on this post deliberate practice task. Your reply/thoughts would be highly appreciated. Thanks and I enjoyed your article.

  11. Pieter
    May 11, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    The study is a classical example of the survivor paradox.
    Study successful and find out what they did to get there.

    But it leaves out the unsuccessful people (of which there are a lot more) who also put in the hours but did not get there.

    • Rob Nightingale
      May 31, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Precisely. This is a problem that plagues so many topics and industries these days... Survivor bias needs to be beat!

    • Chris Embry
      January 12, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      I think part of the contribution where people put in the same hours but fail, has an issue in perceiving the information given to them. I teach a range from 6 year olds to 13 year olds in piano. One thing I saw is that an 8 year old learned a concept I taught within 2 weeks as where on 11 year old took a 1 1/2 months to learn the same concept.

      I tried various ways to show the concept but the given result was this.

  12. juliana ferguson
    April 14, 2017 at 8:57 am

    You could open a restaurant themed around I think the heart rock cafe would be a big

  13. Ingrid Crowther
    February 4, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    I agree with much of what you are saying. Another factor that I always impress during workshop presentations is to engage learners in the transfer of learning. Skills learned must be transferred to new settings and or situations to ensure successful learning.

    • Rob Nightingale
      February 27, 2017 at 9:18 am


  14. Westley
    November 6, 2016 at 5:53 am

    I'm learning about learning to learn.

    • Rob Nightingale
      January 2, 2017 at 10:39 am

      It's all getting so meta!

  15. Miriam English
    June 18, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Interesting article Rob.

    I've been puzzling over the same topic and coming to similar conclusions, however I wonder if, in many cases, the problem is perhaps considerably worse than you think.

    I've set myself the task of becoming proficient at writing stories. My grammar, vocabulary, and general (scientific) knowledge are already good and my spelling excellent, however those are mere mechanics. The trick of writing outstandingly well might be impossible to define. Some part of it depends upon those basic, mechanical skills which can be practiced, but some other part is more difficult to grapple with. How do we practice for ANY amount of hours something that we can't even describe? I am hoping that sufficient practice will alter my thinking so that I can understand those "invisible" patterns. I have hints that this might already be happening, but I can't be sure.

    A worse problem is how to find out whether you can EVER get to the expert level in something. How can I find out if I am any good at something? And how can I find out if I'm improving?

    If you are trying to become a good concreter or trying to learn the python computer language then it is fairly straightforward, but if you are trying to excel at being a musician, or writer, or sculptor, are graphic artist, or 3D modeler the problem is made much worse by the fact that opinion interferes so greatly with your aim. There are countless examples of creators who are now greatly admired, but whose work was dismissed as a waste during their time. Some even died penniless, their work sneered at until later generations realised their brilliance. How can we rely upon feedback from that? I mean, Margaret Mitchell's book "Gone With the Wind" was rejected 38 times before finally getting published. Frank Herbert's "Dune" 26 times. There are many, many more examples. Hell, I would have given up in despair before the rejections got into double digits! Clearly those who claim to be experts at critiquing books are generally not really very good at it and can't be relied upon to gauge competence.

    On the other hand I've noticed how many people tell creators that their work is good simply because they don't wish to offend. That makes reliable feedback virtually impossible to obtain.

    Creative works are such a personal thing. A film that I think is one of the most brilliant things ever produced is dismissed by another person as crap. I can read a book on two separate occasions years apart, the first time being bored out of my skull, but the second time being completely wowed by it. Often when I listen to music the first tracks I enjoy tend to fade in the amount of pleasure they give; the tracks I initially didn't like often become revealed on further listening to be shining gems. Many times a person's mood unfairly affects their perception of a creative piece. If they are tired or irritable then they will attribute their ill-feeling to the piece they are judging.

    So practice can help get to a certain level, especially if the skill is a practical one with easily understood goals. But if the skill being practiced is a creative one then I have a horrible feeling that there is no easy or reliable way to tell whether you're wasting your time, or even improving at all... which is depressing.

    At some point you have to either decide you are wasting your time or labor onward in the conviction that you have something real to contribute. So how do we decide? It seems far too easy to discard genuine, promising talent, or to fritter a life away in delusion.

    (Feel free to judge for yourself how worthwhile or useless I am: All my books and stories are freely downloadable.)

    • Correy
      July 31, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Reading your comment alone I would say you have a gift for writing. I myself am a bit of a writer, but of a more poetic nature. I uploaded several of my poems to Facebook and Of course the Facebook critiques by family and friends were positive, I found the ones from most useful. While most were favorable, they did point out some areas for improvement. Eventually I was published in a collective work, unpaid mind you, but my only real goal was to be published. I say if you truly enjoy writing then do it. As long as it brings you happiness then it is a worthwhile endeavour. If even one other person enjoys your writing that's just icing on the cake.

      • Miriam English
        July 31, 2016 at 12:46 pm

        As long as it brings you happiness then it is a worthwhile endeavour. If even one other person enjoys your writing that's just icing on the cake.

        Thanks for your reply. That really is the only sane way to approach it. I drive myself nuts with these questions. Worrying about the worth of my creations is almost certainly a pointless exercise. I can only do my best. If I'm wasting my time, then who cares? I'm just one out of billions of people. Similarly, if my work turns out to have value to others then that's almost irrelevant; the only one it really needs to have importance to is me. (Now I just have to remember that.)

    • Rob Nightingale
      January 2, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Thanks so much for this comment, Miriam! I agree with pretty much all you said. To me, being "expert" in something is being better at it than at least 90% of the public. For many skills, that's pretty easy to judge. I even believe that this applies to writing, too.

      For many areas, the line is obviously blurred. Some more than others. But for other skills, I guess you'd just have to rely on your own judgement. Or at least measure your performance in a more objective way. For instance, having more readers than 90% of other self-published writers on Amazon could be a sign of "expertise" that can be objectively measured.

  16. joey manalang
    April 5, 2016 at 11:41 am

    FAA will require airline pilots to have at least 1500 flight hours

    Before, a first officer had to have only a commercial pilot license, which requires a minimum of 250 hours of flying. The new rule requires the ATP license and the 1,500 hours. In addition, the FAA now requires a pilot to have at least 1,000 as an airline first officer before flying as captain.

    Which simply means you can't trust your life to a guy who became a pilot overnight.

    I don't think Gladwell calculated 10,000 hours and made it a rule. I think you're missing his point. Whether you spend 6,000 or 20,000 hours playing the guitar you will master the guitar depending on how much time you spent playing it in other words, the guy who plays it the most will be "better" at his craft than a mere guitar collector who loves looking at his guitar and showing it off to friends.

    His point was --- the thing you become proficient or an "expert" in is the activity you spend most of your life doing.

    • Rob Nightingale
      April 6, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      "the thing you become proficient or an “expert” in is the activity you spend most of your life doing."

      I think this is similar to what Gladwell was trying to say, too, but as argued in the article, this isn't true. Spending most of your life learning the guitar does not make you great at guitar. You could spend just a few hours per week learning, and become great, provided you practice deliberately.

      Someone can spend most of their life taking notes at work. It doesn't necessarily make them a great note taker, unless they spend time deliberately studying the skill, breaking it down, and practicing the individual parts of the skill... it takes time, yes. But time-spent is not a deciding factor of mastery.

      • joey manalang
        April 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

        Taking notes...? Not really sure your analogies work.

        Spend another 9,000 hours and maybe you can sell more books with your ideas like Gladwell did.


        • Rob Nightingale
          April 6, 2016 at 2:08 pm

          It was a very low-skill example that can be improved. If I wrote any books (let alone sell any) I would try my best to represent data honestly :)

        • joey manalang
          April 6, 2016 at 2:43 pm

          We can go and on about this but clearly the guy spent a good many years doing extensive research like who would have known Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt were all born in 1955 and they all bought the same magazine that featured an ATARI ad that goes "Build Your Own Computer" when they were teens?

          That's research.

          And here you'll see the patterns he was talking about in OUTLIERS:

          Bill Joy Born 8 Nov 1954 Sun Microsystems, UNIX, Java
          Steve Jobs Born 24 Feb 1955 Apple, Mac, iPod, iPhone, Pixar
          Eric Schmidt Born 27 April 1955 CEO Google prev Apple, Novell
          Tim Berners-Lee Born 8 Jun 1955 World Wide Web
          Bill Gates 28 Oct 1955 MicroSoft, Windows

          You can't discredit the guy with this online article and say he's been wrong all this time.

          And the thing is, he presented it all in such a way that by the end of a single chapter you go:


          That's a combination of talent and thousands and thousands of hours of research...and most of all tons and tons of personal experience. And he wrote them all down in his own original style that comes out entertaining and at the same time educational and profound.

          Believe me, I've read all his books and man, they've changed the way I look at things permanently.

          He may be guilty of over-simplifying the facts of life in his own little way but let's admit it, the guy is a genius and the rest are just jealous of his success.

      • Erman
        January 24, 2017 at 2:32 pm

        No you really can't spend a few hours a week and become an expert guitar player. Any guitar player can tell you that. Jimi Hendrix LITERALLY walked around his house with a guitar strapped on and played from the time he got up till he slept AS AN ADULT. This was even after he got out of the army. Stevie Ray Vaughn used to sit playing from the time he got home from school till his bed time, then snuck out of his house to play clubs till 2am in HIGH SCHOOL. Same with Van Halen, Segovia, Glen Cambell, Tommy Emmanuel, Eric Clapton. Hours by themselves 3-5 hours a day then up to 16 hours each weekend for years playing gigs and practicing. There is no easy way. Especially at the top level. The instrument literally is a part of you and you can make it speak for you.

    • Cooper
      November 2, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      "His point was --- the thing you become proficient or an 'expert' 8' is the activity you spend most of your life doing."

      I agree to this 100%. Gladwell's message that he had to share wasn't merely the numbers and facts as much as the dedication he was implying that people achieving greatness needed. 10,000 hours, regardless of feedback and/or personal creativity, will make anyone exceptional at what they do, and here's the reason why..... nobody else puts in that much time and effort. The ridiculous amount of 10,000 hours is ridiculous for a reason. You dedicate 20 years of your life to working 90 minutes a day at what you do, then you can make an article on why it doesn't work.

      • mac
        October 12, 2018 at 5:35 am

        I don't know many of any one who plays 90 minutes a day. So even if you weren't 100% consistent, you'd still theoretically have about 20 years to get very confident in the instrument. I think if you WERE diligent even in say, 20 or 30 minutes, you'd get very good in under 10 years. By then, you'd also know yourself enough as a player and how you sound to "become more you." Unpess taping and watching yourself a lot, just as with voice. you'll be shocked how you really sound. By taping, you can enhance the "you." That part that makes you unique by sound alone. Nobody can really buy a pocket/feel, particularly YOUR feel or pocket. Once you own it, that's the road to being a legend. Because 19 billion videos online, and pocket is becoming a lost art of a ton of notes (flash or showing off pointlessly) and no feel.

        Buddy Rich could play 3 notes on Uncle Albert in.Live at the Top video and I'll be there 25 minutes on his specific feel. For three easy notes. But my feel sounds like me. I wanted a more older sounding pocket.

        BR started at 18 months playing pro, btw.

  17. luis
    March 20, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    one thing to keep in mind, are to question mastery itself, is a skill every truly mastered by time/ quality? Or is it based on the input of other people based on time? And is 20 years the climax wall of retention to be qualified as a "master". sometimes it's better to just say: enough is enough and a little more is too much.

    • Rob Nightingale
      April 6, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      Good points. There will always be a point of diminishing returns that you have to be aware of.

  18. Nick Lynn
    March 10, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    The world of quick fixes loves to diss Gladwell. Check out elite sports athletes - it's practise, practise, practise. There is no substitute. No quick fix. I'm not talking about just repetition but that's part of it.

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 23, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      True, but I'm not dissing Gladwell from a quick fix angle, but simply showing that the 10,000 hour rule is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts, and that with the write form of practice we can cut this down A LOT (but for some subjects, 10,000 hours won't even be nearly enough)

      • joey manalang
        April 6, 2016 at 12:39 pm

        the write form of practice...? what is that?

        • Rob Nightingale
          April 6, 2016 at 2:08 pm

          You know... like... learning how to spell ;)

        • joey manalang
          April 6, 2016 at 2:45 pm

          LOL :)

  19. Vineet
    December 10, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Great article. Such articles I look forward to from MakeUseOf.


    • Rob Nightingale
      December 15, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Thank you Vineet :)

  20. Tony H
    December 9, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    I'm afraid this isn't really fair to Gladwell. I read the book and remember clearly that he made serious effort to qualify the quality of the practice making all the difference.

    • Rob Nightingale
      December 15, 2015 at 9:55 am

      I'd say he makes a slight effort to, but nowhere near as much as he should be. The *quality* should have been the focus on the book, not the quantity, which is where I think the book went wrong.

  21. Anonymous
    December 9, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Malcolm Gladwell reminds me of Uri Geller.

    "How to Really Master a Skill"
    It depends on your definition of "master." If mastery=proficiency, then one can "master" a skill in relatively short time. Of course, just as in martial arts, there are levels of mastery. If mastery=being expert, then one can never truly "master" a skill because there always is more to learn.

    • Rob Nightingale
      December 15, 2015 at 9:54 am

      I think Ferriss defines it as being "better than 99% of the population". Others would say it's being better than 99.9% of the population. Ferriss' argument is that to get to be n the top 1% is nowhere near as difficult as people think.... Getting gtom 99.9%-100% will of course be immensely difficult, perhaps impossible...