The “10,000-hour rule” — that this level of practice holds the secret to great success in any field — has become sacrosanct gospel, echoed on websites and recited as litany in high-performance workshops. The problem: it’s only half-true.
If you are a duffer at golf, say, and make the same mistakes every time you try a certain swing or putt, 10,000 hours of practicing that error will not improve your game. You’ll still be a duffer, albeit an older one.
No less an expert than Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose research on expertise spawned the ten-thousand-hour rule-of-thumb, told me, “You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal.”
“You have to tweak the system by pushing,” he adds, “allowing for more errors at first as you increase your limits.” Ericsson argues the secret of winning is “deliberate practice,” where an expert coach takes you through well-designed training over months or years, and you give it your full concentration.