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The 10.000-hour rule to become an expert debunked

The "10,000 Hour Rule" is a popular idea that originated from the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, where he suggests that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in a particular field. Author Frederik Van Lierde • Thursday, February 9, 2023 • Impressions: 676 The 10.000-hour rule to become an expert debunked
Sidenote: I have read and enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers"

In the context of startups, the 10,000-hour rule can be applied to the founders and team members who aim to become experts in their respective fields (such as coding, product development, marketing, sales, etc.).

By dedicating time and effort towards their skill development, they can increase their chances of success in their startup venture.

Are 10.000 hours alone enough to become successful?

Malcolm Gladwell did not conduct the 10,00- hour experiment himself. He based his conclusion on the work of several psychologists and researchers who have studied the development of expertise, including Anders Ericsson.

Anders Ericsson is a Swedish psychologist who has studied expertise and the role of practice in developing skills.

His research found that individuals who reach the highest levels of performance in their respective fields tend to have put in many more hours of deliberate practice than those who do not reach that level of mastery.

The message is encouraging and democratic as it supposes that everyone, if they want, they can.

Famous people, who have been credited the 10.000-hour rule for their success?

Bill Gates: It's been reported that Bill Gates practised programming for over 10,000 hours before co-founding Microsoft and becoming one of the world's richest men.

Bill Gates' success can be attributed to several other factors, including his unique and valuable idea for Microsoft, his strong leadership and business acumen, his ability to attract and retain talented people, his ability to adapt to changing market conditions, his financial planning and management skills, and his network and partnerships.

Albert Einstein: It is said he spent over 10,000 hours studying and thinking about physics and mathematics before making his major contributions to the field.

Albert Einstein's success can be attributed to several other factors, including his exceptional cognitive abilities, his innovative thinking and problem-solving skills, his ability to approach problems from unique and unconventional perspectives, his curiosity and thirst for knowledge, and his broad education and understanding of different fields.

The Beatles are said to have performed live for over 10,000 hours before they became famous and changed the course of popular music.

The Beatles' success can be attributed to several other factors, including their unique and innovative musical style, their ability to write catchy and memorable songs, their charismatic stage presence, their ability to adapt to changing musical trends and evolve their sound, their effective marketing and branding strategies, and the strong network and partnerships of their manager Allan Williams.

"The Dan Plan" Experiment

"The Dan Plan," is an experiment conducted by Dan McLaughlin, an amateur golfer who wanted to test the 10,000-hour rule and see if he could become a professional golfer through deliberate practice.

After several years of dedicated practice, McLaughlin was able to significantly improve his golf skills, but he did not reach the level of a professional golfer.

The "Dan Plan" experiment showed that the 10,000 hour rule is not a guarantee of success and that other factors, such as natural talent, the quality of practice, and access to resources, also play a role in expertise development.

In 2017, the project was wound up with a last message. That message came after he realized the physical limitations and depression and admit the experiment was over.

Is the 10.000-hour rule statistically wrong?

The 10.000-hour rule is an average.

Guillermo Campitelli and Fernand Gobet conducted a study of chess players to examine the relationship between the amount of practice and chess performance. Their study found that there was a positive correlation between the amount of chess practice and chess performance.

The research found that reaching the 2,200 point threshold (the level of a Master Chess player on the Elo scale) took an average of 11,000 hours of practice, which is slightly more than the commonly cited 10,000-hour rule.

Its gets interesting that on the level of the individuals, the number of hours they have spent practising varies between 3.000 and 23.000. The 20,000 hour difference equates to a 20-year gap in training!!!

The study also revealed that some chess players who had played for 25,000 hours still failed to reach the Master level.

Ask Yourself the Following Question

Do you think that training for 10,000 hours of rope walking would be sufficient to walk between the Twin Towers, at a height of 400 meters above the ground, like the French street artist Philippe Petit did on August 7, 1974?


There have been several other studies and experiments that have explored the relationship between practice and success, and while the exact amount of time required to reach expertise can vary depending on the individual and the field.

Many of these studies have supported the general idea that dedicated practice is one of the key factors, but not the only one, in the development of expertise.

Success requires a combination of both hard work and natural talent. There is no specific magic number that guarantees success alone!