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Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule Visualized: Practice Makes Perfect

One of the most interesting parts of Malcolm Gladwell’s fantastic book Outliers is his discussion of the “10,000-hour rule,” which posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill, be it playing the violin, computer programming, or skateboarding.

Gladwell covers several tantalizing examples, from the Beatles to Bill Gates, and argues that the biggest factor in their success is not innate talent or blind luck, but rather dedication to their chosen craft. It’s an empowering message, and one that suggests that almost anyone can succeed if they put in the time (could those saccharine posters be right?).

Of course, privilege and luck can greatly ease the way, but there’s little substitute for 10,000 hours of work.

This infographic, created for the blog Zintro by Nowsourcing, takes a closer look at practice and the 10,000-hour rule.

Of course, as Kurt Cobain said, “Practice makes perfect, but nobody’s perfect, so why practice?”


Courtesy of Zintro

 

Brian Clark Howard covers the environment for National Geographic. He previously served as an editor for TheDailyGreen.com and E/The Environmental Magazine, and has written for TheAtlantic.com, FastCompany.com, PopularMechanics.com, Yahoo!, MSN, Miller-McCune and elsewhere. He is the co-author of six books, including Geothermal HVACGreen LightingBuild Your Own Small Wind Power System, and Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater.

Comments

  1. Violet
    Mombasa
    April 2, 10:58 am

    I agree with you guys its always a perfect practice that can make you perfect.unless u practice perfectly you cant be perfect

  2. Gregory Hughey
    Tulsa,ok
    September 20, 2013, 12:39 pm

    I think perfect practice makes perfect, if you dont practice right, you wont get good results. Remember, losing teams practice all the time!!!!

  3. Wm. Luke Everest
    August 15, 2013, 6:32 am

    I love this. I have to say, though, two things. First, just to clarify in case you weren’t mentioning it tongue in cheek, Kurt Cobain was joking. Nirvana practiced like crazy, and Kurt would literally spent all day, every day, writing songs for weeks at a stretch. Krist used to shop around for guitars because if he gave Kurt a new one as a present, three weeks later Kurt would have written a plethora of songs. They also performed so much, and so heartily, that he got addicted to cough syrup due to his singing (and screaming) style causing him pain.

    Second, let’s go over the “No” list.

    1) Mindless repetition. Well, that’s bad, but repetition is good.

    2) Watching an expert perform. WHAT!? That’s one of the best things you can do! As Stephen King says, “If you haven’t the time to read, you have neither the time, nor the tools, to write.” You will meet precious few successful people who DON’T tell you that studying the greats is one of the most important ways to learn. I can tell you from personal experience that being young and arrogant, wanting to shake the world to its boots and refusing to learn from others, slowed me down a whole hell of a lot back before I grew up.

    3) Teaching other people. This forces you to reflect on your own practice. Teaching others in an arrogant, self-aggrandizing manner is a bad thing, but that’s also just plain bad teaching.

    4) Only doing the things that you’re already good at. I totally agree with him on this one, but the emphasis must be on the word ONLY.

    5) The last one, he’s completely right about.

    Good article, but with a few holes. The rule is to just immerse yourself. If you love the greats, don’t just admire them. Study them. If you love a subject, jump into it face first. That’s the guy’s point. As Albert Einstein said, “There’s nothing special about me. I’m just passionately curious.” That stands for becoming knowledgeable and/or expert at anything.

  4. w00d
    March 20, 2013, 11:39 am

    My guitar teacher always disagreed with “practice makes perfect” saying. He would recommend instead and would often say “Perfect practice makes perfect” … Practice badly and your ART will suffer however if practiced well you and your ART will grow. Practice a chord wrong and it will always be wrong except now it will engrained into your muscle memory.

  5. Onjefu
    February 1, 2013, 4:52 am

    @Christian, nice catch. Don’t you like those contradiction?

  6. James Rivera
    Windermere, Fl.
    January 6, 2013, 11:54 am

    Malcom also said things we don’t control have to fall into place at the right time. Timing also plays a huge rule in the success of everyone. I believe we are all successful and mightily bless by God but we take those blessings for granted. Life would be a bore if everyone where Steve Job’s or the Beatles.

  7. Brennen
    United States
    November 29, 2012, 10:13 am

    By small stuff he means the small things getting in the way of practice/success. i.e. checking email, social media, fear, wasting effort on non productive activities. Focus specifically on improving to become an expert, when you are “working”. I agree, take time to refuel and enjoy.

  8. Christian
    November 28, 2012, 9:32 pm

    Interesting that “teaching others” is denigrated at the beginning of the infographic then extolled at the end of it.

  9. Ella
    Bronx, NY
    October 24, 2012, 12:26 pm

    I read this book and took everything to heart. “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” My coach, Vivian Smith, used to tell us that, and this book reminds me of that every time. Cool read and graphic.

  10. Simon
    October 4, 2012, 6:44 pm

    I strongly disagree with number four. You need to have time for “the small stuff”. Not only does insignificance balance out all the effort you (should) put into being significant, but also it often actually is the purest sort of significance.