Friday, January 20th, 2017
There is such a thing as innate talent? The obvious answer is yes. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparations seems to play.
The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requieres a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. The emerging picture from such studies is that the ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert … in anything.
In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.
This is true even of people we think of as prodigies. Mozart, for example, didn’t produce his greatest work until he had been composing for more than twenty years. To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years.
You already know how Microsoft was founded. Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped out of college to form the company in 1975. It’s that simple: Drop out of college, start a company, and become a billionaire, right? Wrong. Further study reveals that Gates and Allen had thousands of hours of programming practice prior to founding Microsoft. First, the two co-founders met at Lakeside, an elite private school in the Seattle area. The school raised three thousand dollars to purchase a computer terminal for the school’s computer club in 1968. When the time came to launch Microsoft in 1975, the two were ready.
Summing-up: There is a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals. Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness. That’s the famous ten-thousand-hour rule.