10,000 hours

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers talks about 10,000 hours of practice to be a hugely contributing factor in people going from being very good to extraordinarily good and even genius.

Some feel that Gladwell’s examples are ancedotal and there is no evidence back up this seemingly fantastic assertion. There may or may not be any causal relations between 10,000 hours and spectacular successes attained by Gladwell’s subjects. To get a sense of the effort represented by 10,000 hours of practice, whether it is computer programming or learning to play the piano, let us do a simple calculation. Assuming that I’m ready to spend 2 hours a day, on average to master some subjects in the intersection of mathematics, algorithms, soft computing and cognitive sciences to reach 10,000 hours, I’ll need 13.7 years. While this number looks depressingly long, it is hardly surprising. A graduate student aspiring to be a Ph.D spends at least 5 years in graduate school. This amounts to around 6-7 hours of a study a day an 300 days an year.

A parent aspiring to provide his child a disproportionate advantage in sports, studies or muscial/literary ability could always start with the idea of 10,000 before 18 years of age before she enters college.

While there does not seem to be anything magical about the 10,000 number it is a considerable amount of time. You can choose at what pace you are going to reach that magic number. If one is ready to learn/practice something for 8 hours a day, leaving 60 days an year for recreation and holidays, they can do so in slightly more than 4 years.