10000 hours

Malcolm Gladwell’s Weak Defense of the “10,000 Hour Rule”

The “10,000 hour rule” – the idea that 10,000 hours of practice is the amount needed to excel in an activity, as described in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers – has been getting more attention than usual recently. The attention is partly because of the release of Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath, but it’s also because of the discussion of the rule in another new book –  The Sports Gene, by former Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein. In his investigation of what leads to outstanding athletic performance, Epstein points out some contradictions to Gladwell’s rule – for example, that athletes at the same level of competition can have very different amounts of practice time or playing experience, and that success in sports isn’t determined only by how much an athlete practices.

A few weeks ago, in this article in the New Yorker, Gladwell responded to Epstein and to other critics of the “10,000 hour rule”.  Since I’ve written a blog post about Gladwell’s misinterpretations of the research cited in Outliers in support of the rule, I was very interested in what Gladwell had to say. But it seems that the article is full of  (more…)

Another Critique of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule”

I’m currently reading a very interesting book entitled Selling the Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids are Paying the Price for Our National Obsession. (The “our” is Canada, if you hadn’t already guessed that from the reference to hockey.) If nothing else, this book has made me, as a figure skater, realize that participating in hockey can be almost as expensive as participating in figure skating, especially when parents put their kids into all kinds of additional hockey training and coaching.

However, the part of the book that I found particularly fascinating was its comments on Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour rule”, which I have criticized in another post(more…)

Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” Doesn’t Add Up

As regular readers of this blog know, it bugs me when writers get things wrong or can’t be bothered to justify their facts. Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of references to the “10,000 hour rule” – the idea that you need to spend 10,000 hours on an activity to be successful at it.  I knew that this idea was popularized by writer Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, but I didn’t know where he got the idea from or what it was based on.

So imagine my surprise when I Googled “10,000 hour rule” and found this very recent letter by K. Anders Ericsson, the lead author of the study that Gladwell cites as “Exhibit A”  in support of the “rule”. Not only does Ericsson say that Gladwell “invented” the 10,000 hour rule, but he also describes Gladwell  as making a “provocative generalization to a magical number”. (more…)