10,000 hours

Around the world, many experts in their respective fields, are in agreement that one must put in at least 10,000 hours of practice before he or she can be considered an expert. Have you lamented that you’re not very proficient at what you do?  Maybe you haven’t yet devoted a total of 10,000 hours of work in that job or endeavor. Time and time again it has been demonstrated that only after 10,000 hours of hitting balls back and forth can a player be considered an expert tennis player.  Only after 10,000 hours of “tickling the ivory keys” can one be an expert piano player.  That only after 10,000 hours of peering in the microscope or mixing chemical concoctions, can one be an expert laboratory technician.

How long is 10,000 hours?  If you work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks each year for 5 years, you will have worked for 10,000 hours. We see the star athlete scoring the goals, famous figure skaters pirouetting and landing a triple lutz and competent paramedics saving a person’s life.  To the amateur onlooker, all these amazing feats are done with seaming ease.  However, what spectators don’t see are the hundreds and thousands of hours that were spent in repetitive drills, the many hours of studying, and the countless tries and retries of a maneuver or skill. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, summed it by saying “the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, to a large extent, is a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.”

So what about doctors and lawyers opening up medical and law practices? Are they really good at what they do or are they just “practicing?” Generally, by the time a medical doctor starts her practice, she has spent years learning about anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. She’s spent months or even years learning under the tutelage of an experienced doctor.  Watching how the experienced physician diagnoses and treats patients. So by the time she opens up her own practice the “new” doctor would have already spent about 10,000 hours actively studying in the field of medicine and can make real-life assessments when dealing with people who are unwell.

So don’t be despondent, don’t lose hope because you’re not an expert in a particular subject. That’s why you’re going to school to acquire knowledge, understanding and experience.  You practice your craft, skill or knowledge so you can get better at what you do.  If you’re not yet where you want to be, you can reach out to a coach, a mentor or a tutor.  Perhaps someone who has already been at it for at least 10,000 hours in your chosen subject or field can help you get better.  They can help you improve your skills because they see and understand far more than what the amateur person sees or understands. Allow their knowledge and experience to help you improve your skills and abilities so you too can one day achieve 10,000 hours and your own expertise in your area of study.

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