Is Practice Enough?

Anders Ericsson’s work on deliberate practice was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, the source of the oft-quoted 10,000 hour rule.

I am a partial believer in Ericsson’s work. I believe that nobody could master (not ‘be very good at’, but ‘master’) a subject (or a game like chess) without a significant amount of deliberate practice, but I don’t believe that the same amount of practice leads to the same results for everyone. That means that I don’t put much faith in the mythical 10,000 hours. It may be an average, ballpark figure, but it is not THE figure.

In this article in The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova describes the work of Zach Hambrick, who suggests that practice plays a role, but is not nearly the whole story. Genes, work ethic and environment are just as important.

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An interesting read, but I for one will be careful not to use a lack of the correct genes, or the correct environment when I was younger, as excuses for not progressing. I will continue to practice deliberately, work deeply and focus on my process goals. I may never master chess, but a very large number of hours of deliberate practice may just help me on the way.

One thought on “Is Practice Enough?

  • 29th September 2016 at 6:49 am

    Its “political correctness” to assume that its all about deliberate practics but .. its not. You will never become a master of an instrument if you have bad hearing in the beginning.
    It happens quite often that all of a sudden you recognise an unexpected talent in a child, where it can perform suprisingly well in some subject never done before ( without! deliberate practice ),
    Papa Polgar did show with his daughters Zsuzsa, Zsófia and Judit Polgár that talent can be “generated” or improved if you start with deliberate training early enough.

    The quality of our perfomance is given by our KSA ( Knowledge, Skill and Abilitys ). While adults can easily aquire further knowlwedge and even abilitys, the improvement in skills ( performing tasks without concious thinking ) seem to be the limiting factor for older folks

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