What I want to say most to start this off is, “Who came up with ten thousand hours, anyway?!” except I know where it came from and to be honest I am sick of hearing about it.
Ten thousand hours has become common. Journalists have reduced it to nothing. They have beaten it to death. Even when it is not referencing Expertise, you will hear ten thousand hours being bandied about. It. Just. IS.
I hate to break it…no…I love to break it to you. Ten thousand hours means nothing.
The research that spawned this number was performed on 40 violinists and was seeking to find some common experiences and habits among some of the best of them. Those violinists who had achieved the highest levels of skill had accumulated about seven thousand hours of practice by age 18 and about ten thousand hours of practice by age 20.
These data were common among a very small group of musicians from among a small group of subjects. Data on practice time was self-reported. From this article, came our famous misinterpretation by Gladwell who took it upon himself to recognize “experts” in retrospect by attributing ten thousand hours of practice to individuals and groups.
Expertise is superlative. It is rare. It is domain specific and its definitions and components do not transfer to other domains. That is to say that those things that contribute to Expertise in violin playing are not likely to contribute to Expertise in another content area.
While some may ask why it is important to make these distinctions I find it compelling. There are other conditions that are necessary for the achievement of Expertise. It is possible for anyone to become competent with enough practice, guidance, and some motivation. It is not possible to become and Expert on these things alone–even with ten thousand hours of deliberate practice.
Many will live out their existence as “experienced non-Experts,” or the more pedestrian “merely competent” despite significant dedication and many hours, weeks, and years of practice. So sorry.