Sam Enright

Wiki Contributions


The 10,000-Hour Rule is a myth

I have read the book, as well as all of Gladwell's other books, and I think people are definitely too hard on him. Outliers is in many ways an extended exercise in showing that success is largely a function of historical accident (like place and time of birth) and not guaranteed by anything in particular. So his picture seems to be that there's this massive market inefficiency in who reaches elite levels of performance, but that if you look at those individuals, 10,000 hours of practice seems to be very roughly the amount of practice that separates the boys from the men, so to speak.  As you mention, he talks about this in the context of deliberate practise - he mentions, for example, that one of the distinguishing factors of elite-level chess players is a large amount of time spent reading chess books, and being formally instructed, and amount of time spent in tournament play is comparatively a weak predictor. So I don't think anyone is arguing that practice is a sufficient condition for expertise. I don't have strong views about whether these findings are intuitive or not. On the one hand, there is a kind of inspirational rhetoric that says that you can achieve anything with enough grit, but people also despairingly talk about not having a "maths brain", and I don't think people internalise how you have to be massively lucky/advantaged to even be in the running for performance at the highest level.