10000-hours-to-masteryA few years back, circa 2009, I read about a fascinating notion in what later became one of my favorite books. Since then, it has become a renowned theory known as “The 10,000-Hour Rule”. For those not familiar with it, the theory was presented in Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” and it claims that the reason why some people outperform their peers is not talent or superior ability, but the simple fact that they have accumulated enough practice time (namely 10,000-hours), through the course of their lifetime, that they become extraordinary at what they do. According to Gladwell, Mozart and Shakespeare, for example, were not exceptionally talented at first, and only started showing signs of their brilliance after they had crossed the 10,000-hour milestone.

Naturally, when it comes to sports, it is difficult to imagine that physical disposition or innate talent do not affect performance at all, but it is also apparent that among people with similar attributes, the athlete that spends enough hours practicing, is much more likely to excel.

Gladwell was building on an earlier article by Anders Ericsson written in 1993, where he not only introduces the need for a time milestone to achieve exceptional results (10-years or 10,000-hours in his case), but also the concept of “deliberate practice”. According to him, the time spent practicing your sport, for instance, should not only be about the quantity of hours, but also about the quality of the preparation. He defines “deliberate practice” as “a highly structured activity, the explicit goal of which is to improve performance.”

As it has become apparent from this, and other similar research, the performance of an athlete is directly proportional to the amount of hours spent practicing. Also, practice time, should be “deliberate” and focused, in order to give optimal results. For a competitive swimmer for example, it is not enough to spend 3-4 hours a day swimming freely in a pool, but it is essential to do laps, improve technique, practice breathing patterns, and “deliberately” try to enhance performance and make the most of practice hours.

So if you want to become a world-class athlete, you need not only be willing to spend around 10,000-hours of regular practice (that’s an average of 20-hours a week for 10 years!), but you must also ensure they are 10,000 “deliberate” hours.

When I was younger, and I still had dreams of becoming a professional athlete, I had never considered the idea that it is nothing but a race against time. The earlier in life one can break the 10,000-hour threshold, the more likely they are to excel as athletes.

So what are you waiting for?

If you still have dreams of becoming a professional athlete (or a highly performing one) you need to start right away, as I am sure, you have lots of hours to catch up on!

More: The Early Bird

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