Repetition: The 10,000 Hours Theory of Success

The Skill of Self Confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph 

As the Athletic Director and head coach of the Varsity Soccer team at Ryerson University, Dr. Joseph is often asked what skills he is searching for as a recruiter: is it speed? Strength? Agility? In Dr. Joseph’s TEDx Talk, he explores self confidence and how it is not just the most important skill in athletics, but in our lives.

  • What is (roughly) the definition of self-confidence, according to Dr. Joseph?
  • After watching this video, what is one way that you think you can build self-confidence?

The 10,000 Hours Theory of Success

How does an average person become a master in their chosen field? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he writes that if any individual completes 10,000 hours of practice or studying, they can reach first-rate status less than 20 years from when they begin. Of course, it is extremely helpful to  start with some sort of natural ability, but as long as you put in the time and dedication, you could become a virtuoso in almost any area or subject. The author created his theory based on the 1993 study by Anders Ericsson, Ralf Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Römer, who observed the habits of violin students at a Berlin music academy. The researchers found that the more advanced musicians practiced an average of 10,000 hours by the time they turned 20.

Becoming an expert in anything is mostly about practicing and challenging yourself to reach your goals. One of the most important things to note about Gladwell, Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer’s research on this topic, is that the benefits of practice are endless, and that it’s practice that will allow you to gain expertise in a subject. NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant shows up to practice determined to improve and perform to the best of his abilities and doesn’t leave the gym until he has made 400 shots. It’s his dedication to improving that makes Kobe one of the best athletes of all time.

The Beatles are another example of people enjoying success after practicing for 10,000 hours. According to Gladwell, The English band travelled to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. During their first trip to Germany, they played for 106 nights (4-5 hours each night). On their second trip, they played 92 times, and on their third trip, they played for 172 hours (48 performances in total). On their last two visits to Hamburg, they played for an additional 90 hours. At the end of all three trips, they performed 1,200 times. Gladwell argues that all this time practicing and playing in Germany (along with all the times they practiced before their visits) is a huge reason for their success.

It’s important to note that one doesn’t have to complete the 10,000 hours by the age of 20. Anyone can complete the 10,000 hours at any age and at any time in their life, and they will still see a dramatic improvement in their abilities. 10,000 hours may not lead to expert-level status, but it does lead to improvement. No matter how many hours an individual deliberately practices a skill, they will certainly become better than they were when they began their journey. When it comes down to it, Gladwell was onto something; any person who consciously strives for growth and puts in the hours will increase their skills tremendously, and how much they succeed depends on them.