How much is enough: 10 000 hours?


Malcolm Gladwell introduced the rule according to which one in order to achieve significant success in any field must invest (practice) 10 000 hours of their life. Since then a myth of “10 000 hours rule” became one of the most extremely popular and persistent stereotypes in the field of psychology.

Supposedly, this rule can make anyone extremely successful in any field; however, the problem of this rule is that it is only half-true. A psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his book “Emotional Intelligence” (1995) debunks this theory and presents a more complex nature of the issue. If you are new to the game of golf and constantly make the same mistake practicing it for 10,000 hours will not improve your skills and the level of the game or as he (1995) puts it “You’ll still be a duffer, albeit an older one”. Thus, the mechanical repetition of actions will bring you somewhere, but you need to adjust the performance of certain tasks repeatedly.

Perhaps the following will sound very familiar and obvious but the key to steady improvement is not the amount of time we invest, but its quality. Despite knowing that we still often expect to become successful solely on the amount of time that we devote to the solution of a problem. Instead, we need to concentrate on the deliberate practice that is continuous training, in which we concentrate entirely, following the instructions of a qualified expert or mentor. This approach is fundamentally different from the approach of measuring success only by the number of hours dedicated to training.

Feedback is a necessary element that allows us to identify mistakes and fix them. Ideally, feedback should come from an expert in the field: without such kind of feedback, one would hardly ever succeed. It is also important to think realistically. Dreams have a creative advantage, but in the context of focused practice, they only dilute the effectiveness of the process. Goleman (1995) says that listening to music or watching TV during practice will not “boost the mind’s processing speed, strengthen synaptic connections, and expand or create neural networks”. However, he adds “at least at first”. Because once we get used to the case, which was once new, we start doing it well automatically.

At this point, it is important not to become a hostage of “okay-plateau” which prevents from growth and development. I am sure that we can all relate to that “good enough” level of performance where we are able to perform the desired action with ease and more or less effortlessly. Thus, if you are going to achieve brilliant success, it is time to move from the autopilot back to the stage of active attention.

Even if the quality issue has been resolved, the amount of time issue is still open. How much deliberate practice of full concentration is enough to achieve perfection?


Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.


3 thoughts on “How much is enough: 10 000 hours?

  1. Dear, Dana! Thanks for your extremely interesting post!
    The rule seems to be so attractive, as it’s very easy to remember. In this sense, I think, it satisfies the human desire to build a simple cause-and-effect relationship: just need to spend 10 thousand hours for anything. Thus, I do agree with you that such kind of mechanical repetition is not enough to a steady improvement, since the factor of quality plays much more important role rather the time spent on practicing. So, in order to achieve perfection in any field one must accentuate on “How effectively” did he/she spend time, but not on “How much”.


  2. Intriguing post, Dana. (5/5) I particularly enjoyed your analytical dialogue between a widely held view and a skeptic. Very insightful!


  3. Dear Dana,
    Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful insigts into the popular topic of “theory of 10000 hours”. I totally agree with you that the constant practice may improve your skill but apart from this, you also need feedback from experts and organized and systematic trainings. Otherwise the improvements can be very limited and you spend all the time mainly doing repetition without much critical reflection. We can be lazy sometimes, and try our best to just do something for the sake of the task, this habit prevents us from breaking the “okay plateau” and makes us to be very ordinary, rather than excellent or amazing. In order to excel the ususal ordinary, efforts are inevitable and even hard working, however, i would like to say that passion and enthusiasm are the first and foremost thing to enable us challenge ourselves but stiil feel so enjoyed and indulged instead of bitter “hard working”!


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