Author Topic: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work  (Read 7533 times)

FIRE_HELP!

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10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« on: July 27, 2014, 05:46:03 AM »
Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers", Geoff Colvin's "Talent is Overrated" and "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle all have the underlying premise that hard work and persistence (10k hours is a lot to practice!) trumps talent and innate ability.

Am considering this right now with our kids, in both sports and music, and trying to understand just how big a commitment it really is.

Any thoughts?

SU

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2014, 06:47:21 AM »
Thoughts: it's all bollocks.

See David Epstein's The Sports Gene: http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/media/books/How-Athletes-Get-Great.html

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And people would call it “Gladwell’s 10,000 hours” as if he had done the research for it. It started to bug me. People were using it just to mean that practice was important, that’s it. That’s not what the theory says. The researcher behind it, Anders Ericsson, has said that he thinks all people have the necessary genes to be elite performers. Just saying that practice is important is totally uncontroversial. From a scientific standpoint it’s useless. Scientists have to say how important it is, what else is important? I found it to be troubling from a scientific standpoint and the more I evaluated it, the more it seemed to unravel. And ultimately, Ericsson read Outliers and said Gladwell misconstrued his work. His words, not mine.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2014, 06:49:26 AM by SU »

YoungInvestor

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2014, 06:52:32 AM »
I could have spent all of my life training, but Michael Phelps would still beat the crap out of me.

The problem with this thinking is simple : It isn't people with innate abilities who do nothing about these abilities who are your biggest worry. It's the people with innate abilities AND training.

I'm not saying you an't get extremely good at the piano, as an example, but some people (larger hands, I guess) have an advantage.

Innate talent + Practice > Practice > Innate talent

sheepstache

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2014, 07:32:07 AM »
Innate talent + Practice > Practice > Innate talent

This.  I see the Talent is Overrated book recommended to some very talented young people to show them, before it's too late, that they can't just coast by on their talent.  So if you have a kid who has some innate ability but isn't applying her/himself, could be a good read for them.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is sort of a related book, though a personal story rather than clinical.  It backs up this idea that you can force your kid into a high enough level of competence to get music scholarships, but on the other hand it appears to be a full time job for the parent and results in a lot of screaming and crying and rejection and so may actually dissuade you.

Pinkie Mustache

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2014, 08:11:09 AM »
Something to consider, like the big hands = advantage to piano mention above, is that different body types lend themselves to different abilities -for instance, people with big/long/broad torsos will have an advantage at swimming. That's why olympians and dancers in different sports seem to follow a similar body type.  The NBA doesn't boast a lot of short people, nor are jumpers generally short people with small butts.  But short squat people seem to show up in olympic lifting, and smaller people have an advantage in more acrobatic olympics, etc. etc. 

But 10,000 hrs? - that's an hour everyday into your 30's if you start as a kid.  Which isn't a bad thing, but just not really relevant for most humans if we're talking sports or music. 

I don't know how old your kids are, but expose them to what's out there and see if there's something that sparks their interest (take them to see things or even just show them on youtube!).  And then, let them go for it and be supportive, and try and not let them quit when it gets challenging, or be distracted by the next passing phase. 

So, all in all, I wouldn't worry too much about "innate" talent or a set number of hours of practice.  If your kid loves something, they'll keep at it, that's the most important part. Just be there to encourage them along the way.

clarkm04

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2014, 08:21:34 AM »
I found Gladwell's position to be more nuanced.  The thrust of the book IMHO is that we over emphasize talent over the hard work talented people do to be outstanding at the areas he investigated.

No where in the book does he claim or present evidence that if you don't have talent but you work incredibly hard you'll be an elite performer.  What he does seem to claim, is if you have some talent and hard work to become an expert you can beat people with more talent but haven't worked as hard or long on the activity or craft.

hodedofome

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2015, 10:36:24 AM »
I haven't read Outliers, Flow or the Talent Code yet. But I have read Talent is Overrated.

What I got from that book is that talent doesn't really mean anything. Without deliberate practice you'll never outperform. It doesn't matter what you're born with, it's how many thousands of hours of deliberate practice that determines how well you'll do at something.

Examples typically used that born talent matters most - Tiger Woods and Mozart, are discussed in the book. Both Tiger Woods and Mozart had dads that were very interested in a particular profession and wanted to teach their kids that profession at a very young age. Woods' dad would hit golf balls in front of him while he was in a baby carrier, and Mozart's dad was a musician and music teacher. By the time they were in their early 20s, they had the same level of experience (deliberate practice hours) as most people in their 30s and 40s. They just got started sooner. Not only that, but neither Woods nor Mozart did anything remarkable until their 20s. Though they did things other people couldn't do at age 13, they were not world beaters until they had the roughly 8-10k deliberate practice hours under their belt.

Obviously, when we're talking about professions that require certain body types, what you are born with makes a difference. I could never be a left tackle in the NFL, just not built for it. But for anything else, you don't really have much of an excuse for not excelling at something.

The key is deliberate practice. This is not the same as practice. Deliberate practice is a designed practice that works on your specific needs. It's not enough to spend 3 hours a day on the driving range, wacking golf balls around. Deliberate practice would be something like:

1) Golf coach tells me I need to change my stance
2) My new stance feels weird, but it's the correct one
3) I'm gonna hit 100 balls a day, in a row, using the correct stance and staying focused until it feels normal and I can do it in my sleep
4) Then move on to the next thing I need to work on

It's determining what you need to do, beforehand, and then repeating that thing, whatever it is, over and over again until you've perfected it. Deliberate practice should be mentally exhausting, you should not be able to do it more than an hour or two at a time. It should be hard, and it should not be fun. You should not expect to enjoy it. But you can enjoy the results of it afterwards.


vagon

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2015, 08:33:47 PM »
It's a massive commitment for you and the kid, with a very uncertain outcome.
Typically things like sports and music compensate on a power law. The top earners do very very well with everyone else not doing so great.

As others have mentioned here genetic advantages/disadvantages may completely out rule the effectiveness of your kid to ever reach a sustainable level of income. In the case of sports that window of opportunity is most like to be well before they hit 35. This is not to dissuade sporting endeavors, I personally love sports, only its very very hard to make a living playing them.

My thoughts are your kid might do better if the channel that 10,000 into something that converts into a professional space, especially something which doesn't present age as a barrier. Say for example various types of computer science. Or if they love music move them towards production if its a sport maybe direct them to coaching, etc.


swick

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2015, 02:21:01 AM »
My thoughts are to teach kids (and adults) HOW to learn properly and let 'em at it and allow them to discover where their interests are. Josh Kaufman offers a very viable, doable, and hopeful alternative to the idea of 10,000 hour mastery. His AWESOME TED talk is here:
http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-First-20-Hours-How-to-Learn

For the many people who aren't born with that innate advantage in a particular field (which does need to be developed) the idea of being "better then average" at a diverse skill set (and knowing how to learn properly)will probably get you farther then doggedly following the 10,000 hour theory.

Pigeon

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2015, 06:13:14 AM »
I read Outliers. The basic premise has been debunked. Still, people with talent and interest will improve with hard work.

I have a kid with considerable music talent. Her very accomplished and experienced private teacher thought that if did was willing to put in the effort, she would get good scholarships at top conservatories. Did wasn't willing to put in that much effort. She worked hard but wasn't obsessed. She is going to major in biology not music.

Most of her friends are Asian and a number have the tiger mother types who are on them 24/7 to work harder. They mostly have very strained relationships and are unhappy kids.

I'm OK with my kid having enjoyed her musical experience and we still like each other. I think that if the kid has the drive to want to be the best and to work that hard I would be supportive but I wouldn't ruin our relationship over it.

darkadams00

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2015, 06:43:15 AM »
Bought my younger son a little keyboard, stand, and stool combo from Sam's Club over 10 years ago when he was about 6. He was making up his own birthday/Christmas songs and jingles within a year (one-finger style). Bought my older son a used acoustic guitar almost 10 years ago when he was 12. He hung it on his wall for two years. Then the younger son picked it up and started playing with it...which led my older son to start playing with it as well. Fast forward to today--my older son (less musically inclined) is pretty darn good on the guitar and the bass. My younger son is an excellent keyboardist and guitarist (acoustic only) and has played weddings, graduations, bookstores, church musicals, school concerts, and has made a fair amount of cash. His "music money" gets rolled back into music equipment and recording time. His two part-time jobs pay for his other expenses while he's in school.

Bottom line from my two sons' experiences (and a few families we know with similar situations)--Limit or cut out TV/video games/cell phones/Internet when kids are young. My older son would play music if he had nothing else to do. My younger son would play music regardless, but he did spend much more time playing if his other activities were limited. Neither son had an issue because we started instilling the idea when they were in elementary school--"No one admires you for how long you can watch TV or for how well you can play a video game." Both sons eventually shared a used PS2 and a few sports games they bought off CL, but it was for a short period of time. Now that they're in college, when we all get together, we always end up playing music at some point.

Talent is important. Practice is important. Desire is important. Practice - Desire = most elementary piano lessons (Talent not required). Sometime desire is helped along by a parent, a sibling, a friend, an attractive boy/girl. Then it takes root and become a life change. Such results can be moderate or exceptional, but they are almost always a significant improvement to the person.

Zamboni

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2015, 06:52:36 AM »
I have read the 10,000 hours original study and Outliers.  The 10,000 hours study (which was an academic paper nearly as long as Gladwell's entire book) showed that music majors who became the most competent performers and therefore were able to become professional performers practiced a lot more than the music majors who didn't target making a living via performance.  Please note that being a competent performer does not equal being the best in the world.  Being a competent performer means you can make a living playing, but it might be playing at people's weddings, in the local orchestra, at piano bars, etc.  It doesn't automatically translate into touring the world and a recording contract.

I also think there is something to Gladwell's main premise in the book, which is that we give way too much service to talent and personal choice without recognizing other factors that led to people's success or behavior, such as the era they lived in and their unique personal circumstances, resource, family, or culture growing up.  The bit where he looks at the birthdays on national team rosters for sports is hilarious and undoubtedly true:  at the younger and younger ages where sorting onto the "traveling" teams happens these days, slightly older kids are more likely to be selected by coaches because they are, in general, slightly more coordinated or bigger.  That doesn't mean that the crazy talented younger kid won't get a spot on the team, but there is definitely a general selection bias for slightly older kids (10 years 11 months vs. 10 years one month.)

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But 10,000 hrs? - that's an hour everyday into your 30's if you start as a kid.  Which isn't a bad thing, but just not really relevant for most humans if we're talking sports or music. 

People who are going to put in the 10,000 hrs do it for one of two reasons: 
1)  they really, really love it, they have both the resources and the opportunity to focus on it, and no one can stop them from just doing that one activity all of the time (aka Jake Shimabukuro) or
2)  someone is forcing them to do it (aka Andre Agassi.)

An single hour everyday for 25 years is generally not how it happens for the people who gain professional level competence in anything.  There is a period of more intense study where larger leaps in knowledge and skills are made in a shorter time span. 

hodedofome

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2015, 08:22:41 AM »
It's a massive commitment for you and the kid, with a very uncertain outcome.
Typically things like sports and music compensate on a power law. The top earners do very very well with everyone else not doing so great.

As others have mentioned here genetic advantages/disadvantages may completely out rule the effectiveness of your kid to ever reach a sustainable level of income. In the case of sports that window of opportunity is most like to be well before they hit 35. This is not to dissuade sporting endeavors, I personally love sports, only its very very hard to make a living playing them.

My thoughts are your kid might do better if the channel that 10,000 into something that converts into a professional space, especially something which doesn't present age as a barrier. Say for example various types of computer science. Or if they love music move them towards production if its a sport maybe direct them to coaching, etc.

Yes, you must count the cost of putting your kid through something like this. For me, I want to first find out what my kids are interested in, then show them how hard they will have to work to achieve their dreams. I don't want to force them into something, but at the same time I don't want them lazy either. There's a balance in there somewhere.

For Tiger Woods, he just adored his dad and would do whatever his dad said. So in that instance I don't think he ever resented his dad putting him through the tough work to get where he is now. For Robert Griffin (quarterback for Washington Redskins), he told his dad he wanted to play in the NBA. So his dad took him outside and made him shoot 100 baskets in a row or something like that. Then his dad said, "if you want to play in the NBA, then you need to do this every day for the next 10 years." RG3 said forget it, I don't want to play in the NBA. He decided he would rather work that hard in track and football instead. So it's was RG3's choice as to what field he wanted to go in, but his dad prepared him for the work needed to excel at the top.

For most of us, our kids aren't going to be world-class athletes or musicians. And that's OK. But we can teach them the core concepts of deliberate practice, flow, mastery and the like, so that they are prepared to succeed in business, teaching, forestry, whatever.

Our pediatrician is a really fantastic doctor. In my opinion he was probably the guy who was stoned through med school, but was really smart and still made the grades. I don't know that for a fact, he just seems that way. He's really goofy but also really good. But anyway, he's a master at getting my kids to do things he wants them to do, as well as consistently nailing the diagnosis. When our oldest son had croup, it was late at night and we called and got him on the phone. We didn't know what croup was, but he did the barking cough himself over the phone and we instantly recognized the sound. He had practiced many, many hours perfecting that cough, simply so he could show parents what it sounds like. And to me this is what it's all about. Having a desire to be really good at something, and being willing to do work in your free time to perfect your skills. Not every doctor is willing to put in this much work, but some are. Not every doctor cares enough to learn how to demonstrate a croup cough, but some are. And I would bet the doctors that are really good get a lot more satisfaction out of their work than the doctors who just want a big paycheck.

davef

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2015, 02:32:01 PM »
I found Gladwell's position to be more nuanced.  The thrust of the book IMHO is that we over emphasize talent over the hard work talented people do to be outstanding at the areas he investigated.

No where in the book does he claim or present evidence that if you don't have talent but you work incredibly hard you'll be an elite performer.  What he does seem to claim, is if you have some talent and hard work to become an expert you can beat people with more talent but haven't worked as hard or long on the activity or craft.

Bingo.

It works for many professional fields besides music. I am a pilot, and 10,000 hours is typically considered the mark of distinction for pilots as well. Many pilots that claim to be talented, with 4-5 years of flying and 2,000-3,000 hours under their belt end up letting their ego get the best of them and cause a disproportionately large amount of the accidents in aviation.   

Gone Fishing

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2015, 02:38:09 PM »

It works for many professional fields besides music. I am a pilot, and 10,000 hours is typically considered the mark of distinction for pilots as well. Many pilots that claim to be talented, with 4-5 years of flying and 2,000-3,000 hours under their belt end up letting their ego get the best of them and cause a disproportionately large amount of the accidents in aviation.

Maybe it takes 10,000 hours to realize you are not as good as you think you are!

Teddy25

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2015, 03:14:40 PM »
Luck has a lot to do with it.

hodedofome

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2015, 03:34:55 PM »
Luck has a lot to do with it.

Of course it does, but luck without deliberate practice won't get you anywhere either. It's really deliberate practice + a little (or a lot of) luck = superstar. We can't control our luck, but we can control our effort.

Albert

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2015, 04:04:00 PM »
About musicians and practice this sounds about right. I have a friend who is a professional musician (plays chello), now in his late 20-ties. He is not super famous or rich, but makes a solid income by combining part time teaching in kids music school, part time giving solo concerts and part time playing for an orchestra. I've asked him how much practice it took to get as good as he is. He says he started around age 8 and it was on average 2 h a day every day for about 15 years. Of course even a master has to continue to practice at least an hour a day. He also sometimes laments that his students will never amount to anything because none show the drive and dedication he had. All that doesn't imply that I would have necessarily achieved the same had I practiced like that.

This is similar for many high performance professions where physical skill needs to be refined. We are however born with different abilities (talent if you wish). Not just physical, but mental as well. It would be silly to claim for example that all kids have an equally good memory.

gimp

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2015, 04:43:48 PM »
Agree with the other folks. Talent + time. Without talent, you can spend your life doing something and only be mediocre at best. Without time, you need a shitload of talent, and even then you'll run into walls sooner or later.

And complicating matters, talent itself is luck and genetics, as well as luck and environment, as well as ... well, in my opinion, environment and a push in the right direction. You might have the potential for talent but never see it blossom.

So it goes. Shit's complicated, yo.

Alabaster

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2015, 05:08:24 PM »
So.... I'm probably parroting most people here but:

I spent a huge amount of time working really hard at things I wasn't very good at as a kid. I basically figured that while I wasn't the brightest, I could make up for it with diligence and training. The result - misery. For 21 fucking years I lived a life focused on accomplishment. And accomplish I did. There was rarely a door that was closed to me. I was also fat, a social outcast, and depressed. Nothing was ever good enough for me and I could always do better - if only I worked a little harder.

I drove myself but I watch many of my peers be motivated by their parents. Its not a fun thing when your mom reads your emails, picks out the college who's summer program you'll be attending, and decides your career. Nor is it any good to know you have to balance advanced classes with several clubs, honors societies, and community service projects. That is how kids burn out.

If you want to pursue something you enjoy, that's great. If you want to encourage your kids to pursue something they're good at, fine. Just don't be one of those parents that decide their kid is going to accomplish shit come hell or high water.

Turns out I'm a pretty decent computer scientist/programmer/whatever. All the work I put in during high school was largely wasted. If I had done even the normal programs + the computer science track I would have been fine and a whole hell of a lot less stressed. The scholarship I received for college was based on my AIMs scores (which is the joke of a test that Arizona kids take to pass high school). College was a bitch, but once I got that silly little piece of paper, life got a whole lot better.

In conclusion - practice, dedication, and hard work can over come a lot. But its not worth pouring your life into something you're not particularly good at. Find something you enjoy, and then do that.

Ynari

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2015, 05:34:22 PM »
One thing that I find most people ignore is that hard work can't just be aimless. It has to be directed, somewhat structured, and aimed at progress. Work harder AND smarter.

How many people do you know who took 4 years of Spanish or French or whatever [an hour a day, 5 days a week, is over 1000 hours] and still can't hold a simple conversation? For reference, Spanish is rated to take about 600 class hours to learn, or 6 months at an intensive pace. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

How many people do you know who played an instrument all throughout grade school but are no better now than they were when they started? This one I'm very guilty of - I spent 7 goddamn years with the viola and made more progress in the last year, when I finally found a teacher that suited me, than I did in the previous 6 years combined, but by that point I'd pretty much lost interest.  SO was wondering the other day about his violin, "Why did I never practice scales? If I had even done just a few scales every day, I'd be so much better than I was. But my teachers just gave us music to practice for a concert, and I never really got better."

10,000 hours and the idea of hard work compounding talent are great motivators for someone who has found something they are good at and enjoy. But 10,000 hours can't be the end goal. The sheer amount of time I spend listening to Spanish songs or holding my viola does not make me proficient. Efficient and directed practice does.

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #21 on: February 21, 2015, 01:46:07 PM »
"I could have spent all of my life training, but Michael Phelps would still beat the crap out of me."

If you read about Phelps, though, besides talent and ability, he had a coach that knew exactly how to maximize his mental power and overcome mental barriers.

It's as much as who you put around yourself as what steps you are taking to reach something.

Want the kids to be really successful in their sports/ music (and if they WANT that too)....pair them up with a mentor.

JetsettingWelfareMom

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2015, 10:47:57 AM »
Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers", Geoff Colvin's "Talent is Overrated" and "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle all have the underlying premise that hard work and persistence (10k hours is a lot to practice!) trumps talent and innate ability.

Am considering this right now with our kids, in both sports and music, and trying to understand just how big a commitment it really is.

Any thoughts?

As a talented person in the arts I think talent is overrated. Obviously these are subjective fields but my experience is that who you know, marketing and psychology win out. There's a lot of mind blowingly talented people out there. Even among more measurable fields like running or swimming there's components of luck, genetics and ability to thrive under pressure.
I am not saying that you shouldn't take your kids to swimming lessons because his or her odds of becoming the next Michael Phelps are low. But don't place a big upfront investment on this stuff that is not Mustachian. Just expose your children to a wide variety of learnings, from sports to music to building. Make an investment after they show ability, persistence and dedication. No pressure!

dachs

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Re: 10,000 hours and Talent vs Hard Work
« Reply #23 on: August 10, 2015, 04:17:38 PM »
Just stumbled upon this topic. I think it's an very interesting idea and yes, 10 000 hours is a lot of time. However, ever considered using the pareto principle (80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort)?

So, If I trained "just" 2 000hours I could become pretty darn good at something. So if all that is true (both the 10 000hour thing and the pareto principle) you could become pretty good and lots of things with just 1 hour of training per day for six years. Isn't that cool?