Finally, a question with an easy answer. Simply put, 10,000 hours is the same as 36 million seconds, 600,000 minutes, 416 days, 13 and a half months, or 1.14 years.
- What is “Mastery”?
- The 10,000 Hour Rule
- 10,000 Hours Of Deliberate Practice
- Attaining Mastery
- More On Malcolm Gladwell
- A Lifetime!
Unfortunately, despite obviously being a math expert, “How long is 10000 hours?” isn’t a math question. Instead, it’s a question of how much effort you have to put into mastering something, anything. So I have a much better answer to the question…
How long is it?
Well, it’s the length of time you will probably need to put into any activity before you have well and truly mastered it.
What is “Mastery”?
This has to be the real reason why you’re here. No doubt, you have something or many things in your life that you would like to master. We all do. But what does it mean to master something?
Why don’t we start with a dictionary definition?
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word master as quite simply:
“to learn or understand something completely,”
while the Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers both,
“to become skilled or proficient in the use of” and “to gain a thorough understanding of” to define mastery.
Well, that’s what you knew already, isn’t it? But what does it mean to understand something completely or to be proficient? If we stick with the dictionary, we’re just going to go around in circles here. Instead, let’s look at what mastery means in the modern world and how the 10,000-hour rule fits into all of this.
The 10,000 Hour Rule
A lot of research goes on to try to figure out the best and quickest ways to learn. And that makes sense. In our modern world filled with an abundance of technologies and global communications, modern people have to know more than anyone in the past ever did.
If we can learn things more quickly and efficiently, we’ll be able to move on to the next in the seemingly limitless list of things we need to know.
Author Malcolm Gladwell
In 2008, pop science writer Malcolm Gladwell published a book called Outliers: The story of Success. In it, he examined how and why certain people succeed and indeed excel in their fields. And one thing he references to support his ideas is the 10,000-hour rule.
This isn’t a strict law or something that is even truly ever even recorded. Instead, Gladwell’s rule comes out of the research of some professors of psychology at Florida State University. These researchers found that “deliberate practice” is a huge predictor of success in any field. When that amount of practice gets to around 10,000 hours, the person is far more likely to be an expert or more proficient than someone who has not put in that much effort.
10,000 Hours Of Deliberate Practice
It’s very important to focus on the word “deliberate” here. In Gladwell’s Outliers, he states that 10,000 is a magical number of practice hours that can more or less set anyone apart from the competition. However, the original researchers stressed that this practice has to be “deliberate” and controlled, and in most cases, led by an experienced teacher.
Think about the piano. Can you become a concert pianist simply by playing Mary Had a Little Lamb again and again for 10,000 hours? I doubt it, though you’d be darned good at that one song!
Focused and directed…
Instead, your piano practice should be focused and directed. You need to work through progressively harder and harder songs that push your limits. You need to fail and try again and fail some more before you learn mastery. A great teacher is usually necessary to lead you down this path, even if the majority of the practice hours are done on your own.
Of course, the same goes for any other discipline, from sales to neurosurgery. We’re talking about putting in the work rather than just daydreaming about it.
More factors will make you better or worse at something than others. No matter how good you are at basketball, someone who is equally good but a foot taller than you will always have an advantage. But in terms of producing your personal best results, putting in the work is what it’s all about.
Let’s go back and break down the math of 10,000 a little bit more reasonably…
Yes, 10,000 hours is only 1.14 years, but you have to sleep, eat, shower, and do a whole lot of other things in your daily life, too. So, what is more realistic in terms of reaching a 10,000-hour target?
If you were to work at what you want to master for about four hours a day, it would take you about six years and ten months to master it. For most people, that’s still a lot. If you also have to work or study full-time, most people would find 20 hours per week a challenge. Plus, that still works out to over 9.5 years.
In a practical sense, unless you can focus all of your time and energy on your task, you should probably expect to work at something for nearly ten years to master it.
If that sounds like bad news, remember everyone else has to put in 10 years, too!
Of course, there are exceptions like child prodigies or people who can work full-time (and in their spare time) on their chosen target. They may reach mastery sooner than you or I, but that doesn’t mean their mastery will be better.
More On Malcolm Gladwell
This well-known author has brought out a number of intriguing books for your reading pleasure.
Firstly, we found the above-mentioned Outliers: The Story of Success, The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War, and Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know.
As well as The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, and finally What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures all available online in 2023.
Or if your problem is managing your time to put in your practice hours, then check out Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, Strategies and Tips for Time Management, Time Management from the Inside Out, Master Your Time, Master Your Life, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, and The Time Chunking Method: A 10-Step Action Plan for Increasing Your Productivity to master your hobby in no time!
Another book we highly recommend is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which made for an intriguing read into everyday life.
The truth is that 10,000 is just a rough estimation of how much work you have to put in to achieve mastery of just about anything. Putting in that much time usually takes years. And once you’ve put the work in, you’ll probably use your mastery for many years to come, if not for the rest of your life.
So the answer to the question is really “your whole life.” And remember, mastery truly includes dedicated practice, using it, and guiding others towards proficiency. So like all things, 10,000 hours is a journey and one that’s meant to be enjoyed as you travel through it.
All the very best with your Mastery!