The 10,000 Hour rule revisited

In Change, Creativity, Insight, Nature, Thinking

I was prompted to write this by seeing on Facebook this ‘cartoon’ and it reminded me of the 10,000 hour rule that Malcolm Gladwell postulated in his book Outliers which says that the key to success in any field is to a large extent a matter of practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours.  He cites The Beatles, Bill Gates and others that he suggests have become successful in their chosen field.

And generally, the more we practice something the better we get at it.  So that would apply to all activities then wouldn’t it?  .

  • So by fighting childhood obesity, more children get fatter
  • By fighting adult obesity, adults get fatter
  • By fighting low levels of numeracy and literacy in children numeracy and literacy levels reduce
  • By fighting stress, levels of stress increase
  • By analysing problems in therapy or with friends, the problem hangs around a long time and/or gets worse
  • By worrying, people worry more
  • By getting angry and frustrated, people experience more anger and frustration

After all ‘practice makes perfect’ as the saying goes.

So, for example:

  • 12 hours a day ‘practicing’ stress, then in 2 years and 103 days you’d hit the 10,000 hour rule and become pretty accomplished at stress
  • By having 2 hours a week ‘practising’ problems in therapy, it’d take about 10 years to hit the 10,000 hour rule and people would become accomplished at the problem.  And more likely a considerably shorter time the problem was practised in between sessions by dwelling and ruminating on it (10 hours a day means it’d take less than 3 years of practice to become accomplished)
  • By fighting childhood or adult obesity for say 5 hours a day (and by that, I just mean thinking about it), that’d take 5 years and 175 days to become accomplished

Apparently, the criticism of the 10,000 hour rule is that it ignores ‘complex social phenomenon’, which again, to me suggests another misunderstanding.  For example, if the best minds have spent many decades looking for solutions in complex social phenomenon then surely they’d have found the answer by now, but the problems they examine get worse, not better.  So to me it seems that 100% of the time someone digs deep in to a problem and says ‘it’s ever more complex’, the problem gets worse, not better.  Hmm, curious that, isn’t it??

Maybe society, and the ‘best minds’ just have it back to front.

Any complex system has to have very simple operating rules for it to work successfully.  So rather getting analytical and looking for complexity, I’m curious about simplicity and what’s operating behind all of this.

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