One of the Most Misinterpreted Adages: The 10,000 Hour Rule

Mike Coval
April 7, 2021

The 10,000 hour rule.

For those of you not familiar it was coined by Malcom Gladwell and even though there is no validity behind the 10,000 hour rule the general concept is that in order to gain mastery in anything one must put in 10,000 hours of dedicated work to that particular area.

In my years, I've seen people subscribe to this thought process in the most literal sense. To be 100% honest, I have never read the book, but I'm sure Gladwell didn't intend for it to be taken so literal and more so that the general message was that if you want to be elite, then you have to put a lot more time in than you:

A) currently are

B) believe that you need to

For the sake of this email though, let's assume that 10,000 hours is legitimate. Where things get twisted in some peoples minds is they think simply by putting in the time that mastery happens. This is especially true in the professions where the feedback isn't always objective. For example, my field.

Those 10,000 hours have to be a conscious 10,000 hours.

By conscious I mean:

-you're introspective with your process and reflect on your daily work

-you surround yourself with individuals who are better than you and ask for their feedback (this is a progression as your skills will get better over time, your circle of who is better than you should change)

-you're able to admit your failures and use them to get better

-you're humble enough to know that you don't know it fact, the more you learn the more you learn how much you still have to learn

-your thought process isn't so binary and you explore other fields to find parallels within your own field. This comes in incredibly helpful when trying to explain a complex topic in a simple manner in more than one way (know your audience)

That list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good start.

And whenever anybody has brought up the 10,000 hour rule in the past or they try using the trump card of "I have x amount of years of experience" then my response has been "yeah, but what if you suck? Then you just have 10,000 hours experience of sucking"

For those of you familiar with the 4 Stages of Competence this would be an example of the individual who is "unconsciously incompetent".

These people are dangerous and I do my best to stay away from them.

Side note: If you ever wonder why when I get asked a question, that most often times I have a multi-faceted answer, it's to check myself and my own bias and to give you a fair answer.

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Mike Coval

Coval Fitness is a Personal Training Studio and Gym in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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