The Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule

Recently on Brain Pickings, we were curious  to see a review of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by celebrated psychologist and author Daniel Goleman. In the 10,000 hour book, Goleman debunks the 10,000 hour rule mythology to reveal the more complex truth behind reaching success:


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 10,000-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.”

Thus,  the secret to continued improvement, it turns out, isn’t the amount of time invested but the quality of that time.

Additionally, an open feedback loop allows one to spot errors as they occur. And then, correct them – much like ballet dancers use mirrors while watching themselves practice to better their form.

Later in the 10,000 hours book,  Goleman goes on to explore how concepts like attention-chunking to prioritize time-usage and emotional empathy art critical in reaching excellence.

We’re excited to read Goleman’s book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence , and uncover insights other than the 10,000 hour rule. If you have any great book recommendations on thought leadership, best practices, or innovative strategies – tweet us @ImageThink! We are always looking for new learnings to fuel our creative practice.

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