Does It Really Take 10 000 Hours?
In his book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell introduced the 10 000 hour theory, which basically says that in order to master any skill, it takes 10 000 hours of deliberate practice. His research took the world by storm, and led to many studies, some of which claim to have disproved the theory. However, while I think there may be some truth to the 10 000 hour theory, this post is about becoming good at any skill, not necessarily becoming a master of the skill.
I’m going to use learning the guitar as an example. When I suggest that someone try their hand at learning to play the instrument, people often say “I can’t do this. It’s going to take too much time to learn”.
I can tell you without a doubt, this is not true.
I’ve had numerous people ask me how long I’ve been playing the guitar, wondering if they can pick it up too. Whenever I say that I started at the age of eight, there’s usually a look of demoralisation. The usual response is:
“Okay, I’m never going to be able to do this”.
Deconstructing a Skill to Learn it Faster
It certainly did not take me 13 years to become “good”. In fact, I know numerous guitarists who started just a couple of years ago and are already light years ahead of me in terms of skill.
I have taught people with no prior knowledge how to play a song in under a week! Most people think they’re going to be stuck at the beginner “I can barely hold the strings” stage for a few weeks before they can start playing songs. Not true!
When I was being taught to play, it took me a couple of weeks before I was able to play a simple two-chord song. The reason my progress was so slow was because of the method in which I was taught. It was a very ineffective. Once I quit those lessons and taught myself to play, my progress was exponential because I changed the way I was learning the material. I started using the 80/20 rule which you can read about here.
Once I got to a level where I felt that I had enough knowledge to share, I deconstructed the way in which I had learned, removed all the useless bits, rearranged it, and began to teach it to people in the most effective way possible. In fact, if you deconstruct a skill before you learn it, you can pick it up much faster. I’ll get into this in a future post.
Introducing the 20 Hour Rule
For any skill, all you need is 20 hours.
20 hours! That’s nothing! Especially when compared to the 10 000 hour theory. In order to actually be able to start applying the skill, all it takes is 20 hours. Once you get past that threshold, you will experience that the skill starts to become drastically easier as time passes. This could be applied to anything! It could be a language, drawing, dance, public speaking, acting, chess, any kind of sport, and indeed, the guitar.
In fact, this raised an interesting thought to me. Many people have told me that they’re not good at drawing. So many people are quick to say, “I have no talent”. I wonder how many hours they actually put in. If they had just put in 20 hours of deliberate practice, they might have had a very different response.
I recently watched this TED talk (you can watch it below) and it basically puts everything that I had discovered before into words with an excellent structure. Josh Kaufman breaks it down extremely well and it is very helpful to gain an understanding of what to do. It’s an excellent talk and I definitely encourage you to watch it. He also mentions starting with the 10 000 hour theory and how he discovered his 20 hour method.
The ramifications of this discovery are incredible! You can pretty much learn anything you want, in a very short space of time. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Before you say “I’m not good at that”, ask yourself: Have I put at least 20 hours into it?
- It takes only 20 hours to pick up a skill and be able to apply it at a functional level
- 10 000 hours enables to you master a skill, not simply become good at it
- If you deconstruct a skill into its various parts, rearrange it and focus on the most important things, you can pick up the skill much faster
- Watch the TED talk, “The first 20 hours — how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman | TEDxCSU“. It’s an excellent talk, and highly recommended.