Theory: With 10,000 hours of practice of a particular skill, it can effectively be mastered. Regardless of accuracy, the concept is empowering.
Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.-Malcolm Gladwell
What makes someone good, no… a master at something? Genetic predisposition, drive, natural talent, knowledge, experience and practice.
Even being blessed with all of that, without the latter, you can only be a novice at best, prodigy or not.
In regards to the specificity of skillsets, practice trumps experience. Experience may make you an expert, but practice makes perfect – a master.
And yes, there is a distinction. A skill can be experienced but not necessarily practiced. Whereas a skill practiced is a skill experienced, especially when done so deliberately. Aka “deliberate practice”.
With experience, it just means you showed up. With deliberate practice, you apply yourself, you push it.
Instead of going through the repetitious motions for a means to an end (like when you’re at work), the focused intent is performance improvement of the skill.
It’s less using a skill to get the relevant task done and more practicing a skill to get better at it. Which in turn makes achieving that task more efficient, effective.
That’s the basis of skill mastery.
What does it mean to master a skill? It doesn’t mean reaching the highest position (e.g., job title) in a field. It means reaching peak levels of understanding and use of the specific skillset in a field.
In the book Outliers, it asserts that the “10,000 hour rule” can make you a master of any skill when practiced the correct way. Deliberate to improve performance.
To not do something just because it’s your job or to achieve another goal as part of the process, but to make increasing your skill level as the goal.
I’d like to believe I’m world-class in edged weapons close quarters combat. I discovered my knack for this skillset when I first started training as an operative. This is how I evolved into becoming a “master”:
Practice. Lots and lots of deliberate and passive practice. In training, I was eager to learn and excel, to be the best – being naturally talented in this and my enjoyment of it helped tremendously.
When I wasn’t in actual training or with an instructor, I would find time to practice on my own. Trying to master each facet of everything I learned and then reinforcing it with mental and physical memory. Pushing myself a little harder and longer than the day before, almost forcing my abilities to improve.
Reps after reps after reps…
I would also practice passively. Alternating from the left and right hand, not only repeating each move while I’m multitasking, but merely holding a blade so it became a true extension of my hands. Examples; While reading a book, taking a shit, using a mobile phone, cooking, etc. Any activity with a free hand.
After retiring, this is one of the things I teach as an operations consultant (more on this in a later post).
I became faster, more precise and most importantly, it became second nature. Skillset ingrained.
For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.-Aristotle
Now after over a decade, my “practice time” and experience is most likely beyond 10,000 hours.
It’s an arbitrary number as it depends on the person and of which discipline they are training. It may take 5,000 or 15,000. But 10,000 hours does seem like a good average of time spent to master a skill.
This should be motivating, empowering.
When you’re specifically determined to get better at your skillset, your mindset becomes goal-oriented. Having a somewhat set number to strive for makes the mission more clear and achievable.
That doesn’t mean you should count every hour you practice a skill, it means you should take full advantage in every hour that you do practice a skill.
A true master of an art knows he isn’t the best he can be, just that he knows he can get better at it and doing something about it through deliberate practice.
Don’t decrease the goal. Increase the effort.-Tom Coleman