/ 10.000 hours

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dg123 - on 25 Nov 2012
10.000 hours seems to be the magic number, if you want to become an expert at something, that's the number your aiming for. However, how does this translate for climbing? Assume that you mainly train by bouldering indoors, you train 7 hours a week, so 365 hours a year, so you'll be an expert in little more than 30 years. Brilliant, in only a few decades you're an expert! (at indoor bouldering) However, in that hour of training a day, normally, you probably only actually climb for a third of that hour. So does that mean that you have to climb three times more to be an expert, or that you'll be an expert after a bit more than nine decades? Also, rather more uplifting, if you work 40 hours a week it only takes five years to become an expert at your job!
as646 on 25 Nov 2012 - whois?
In reply to dg123: I read a book that dealt with this, it's definitely worth a read. It's called 'Bounce: The Myth Of Talent And The Power Of Practice'.

In short, no you will not necessarily become an expert at your job after 5 years, just as you will not become an expert driver after driving x amount of years. The 10,000 figure does not necessarily refer to the time when you are merely doing something, rather actively trying to improve yourself. Referring back to the driving example, once you have the fundamentals down, people tend to go into a sort of "auto-pilot" when they are driving. You could do this for 100 years and never become an expert. When you're at work, do you honestly spend all 40 hours a week training to become better at it, or do you for the most part merely do your job?

Then you have to take into account training strategies that let you constantly progress, and a whole heap of other factors.

Not to mention the definition of "expert" is subjective.
James Oswald - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to dg123:
10,000 + hours.

It depends on your activity though.

THis is a great book, about the role of practice and opportunity in explaining why some people are more successful than others. It will make you think.
In reply to James Oswald: I can also recommend outliers. It does cover how various people become experts in their field. Also Blink by the same author covers this.

The 10000 hours has also been decribed as 10000 hours or ten years of deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice has some very specific elements.

1 Setting Specific Goals
2 Obtaining Immediate feedback
3 Concentrating as much on Technique as Outcome

I wrote a blog piece on it, although my conclusion at the end about a genetic make up for adjusting to altitude has yet to be proved. The Cauldwell Xtreme Everest expedition that took lots of DNA samples of the participants has spent 5+ years looking at their data and have yet to find a link to any DNA markers. Although having looked at risk taking their is some growing evidence that there are some genes that deal with dopamine receptors and Monoamine Oxdise (seretonin) aka the Warrior Gene that have linked risk taking behaviour and personalities to DNA.

nniff - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to dg123:

Sorry, wrong number.

Whatever the number is, it isn't 10,000.

Furthermore, 'expert' is a vague, variable and ill-defined term to attach to a measure that quantifies nothing more specific than experience.

By way of an example - there's nothing expert about a time-served mini-cab driver (like the one I encountered reversing around a roundabout on a dual carriageway on Friday night).
john arran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to James Oswald:

10,000 hours may be a necessary condition but I rather doubt it's a sufficient one as it's likely that few people will bother completing their 10,000 hours if they reach a plateau and can't progress further. You end up with a very biased sample of those who do reach 10,000 hours being some of the very few who were capable of being 'expert' in the first place. That's where Gladwell's book fell down for me; he just seemed to be looking at successful people after the fact and picking out characteristics to suit, with no attempt at all to assess how likely those same characteristics are in people who end up not being exceptional. If you like, he was drawing inferences from correlation and giving the impression (to me anyway) that he'd identified causality.

I may be wrong though as I only got half way through the book before losing patience with it, and it was a while ago now anyway. Maybe I'm being over-critical
Taurig on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to dg123:

I agree with what people have posted above; for the purposes of Gladwell's book, the 10,000 hours is quite effective as a nice round figure that you can get your head round as a lot of time. The fact that you have brought it up shows that it has dispersed into a lot of folks general knowledge. But it's perhaps a bit prescriptive, as what constitutes positive training can be a matter of opinion. For example, sometimes you might think you are doing quite well with regards to practice, getting to the wall 3 or 4 times a week for a few hours. Then you hear about some guy that has a bouldering wall in his basement and spends 10 hours a day on it 7 days a week, with boxing gloves on, blindfolded etc.

The main message I took away is that if you continuously practice in such a fashion that every piece of training is of benefit, and you do that for several years, the fact that you didn't display much natural aptitude at first probably won't matter so much. Don't try a bit harder, try a lot harder and keep it up for a long time.
In reply to john arran: I am not sure if it was in Outlier or not, but I read somewhere about the people who score highest in IQ tests often fail to succeed. I am pretty sure it was a Gladwell book, so he did go onto cover those who fail to a certain extent. I have to agree that Gladwell does have some flaws, if you compare arguments between Gladwell and some of the same topics covered in the Freakonmics series they differ quite a bit in their conclusions.

Similarly it was Ericsson a scientist/researcher who developed the theory, Gladwell just made an effort to add colour to this simple idea by introducing people who fitted that concept and telling their story. Ericsson came to his conclusions by interviewing a lot of people considered experts in their feild and came up with the 10000 hours as a rough guideline, as what stood them apart from their peers. There are of course other things that the 10000 rule simply overlooks.

Ericsson also suggested that the practice has to be deliberate and cover the three points I made above for it to hold true in a generalised sense. Simply going to the wall for 10000 hours won't make you an expert climber, unless you focus on deliberate practice. What I take away from that is even if you do engage in deliberate practice for 10000 indoors, then you will be ever be an expert at climbing indoors, as it is quite specific.

For anyone wanting an introduction to Gladwell, some of his stuff is online. He wrote a nice article on choking and panic.

john arran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Mark Reeves:

That sounds familiar and I think it probably was in Outlier that I read it too. So in looking for expert predictors he rejects (I'll accept probably with justification) some of the characteristics you may think would be advantageous and ends up with his 10,000 hours concept. Does he then subject this idea to the same scrutiny by trying to identify people who have put in a similarly concerted effort to excel but never made the grade? I certainly don't recall anything of that, and I do remember briefly skimming the rest of the book to see if it got more interesting. There must be many thousands of people in many disciplines who have toiled for many years to excel without ever becoming noted as leaders in their field.

I would guess that as a predictor of genuine excellence (as opposed to competence - perhaps the lack of definition is the real problem here) 10,000 hours of practice is probably no stronger a factor than IQ, genetics or nurture, depending on the field in question. i.e. only one of perhaps several necessary conditions.
as646 on 25 Nov 2012 - whois?
In reply to john arran: Really? I don't know about the 10,000 figure, but I would say the amount and quality of practice is the overriding factor that determines a persons success in a given activity, vastly outweighing any supposed "genetic predisposition".
ablackett - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to dg123:
> 10.000 hours seems to be the magic number, if you want to become an expert at something, that's the number your aiming for. However, how does this translate for climbing? Assume that you mainly train by bouldering indoors, you train 7 hours a week,

I don't reckon you would become expert with 7 hours a week.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I'm not a good climber but I don't train for climbing, so why would I expect to be? Last year I became a good runner, I "practiced" that up to about 20 hours a week and subsequently got better, no surprise really.
john arran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to as646:

I think we simply don't know because I've never heard of any way of assessing the relative contribution of different success factors.

Of course it's to be expected that given a group of people similarly genetically suited to a pursuit then the ones that put in the most effective training are likely to gain most success. But they'll also likely succeed against people less genetically suited but who put in just as much and just as high quality training. Who's to say then that it's the training and not the genetics that played the greater part in distinguishing the winners from the also-rans?

Some people get really very good at things with surprisingly little practice. Others seem to start at a very low natural ability and take years of targeted application to reach even moderate levels of performance.

I don't think you'll find many top basketball players without natural height and/or natural fast-twitch muscle development. I don't think you'll find many top chess players who weren't good from a very early age. Other pursuits may have less clear-cut genetic or sociological determinants of success but they could easily be equally important.

Just because the quality hours make a critical difference between the very best and the nearly-as-good (who probably share similar natural traits) doesn't mean they have necessarily played the biggest part overall in their performance. We just don't know.
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:

>I don't think you'll find many top chess players who weren't good from a very early age.

No, you won't (though some, e.g. Rubinstein, and I think Tschigorin too, didn't learn until they were 18 or so). But then you won't find any who haven't spent a heck of a lot of time at it either; as you say, we don't really know. Chessers are perenially interested in the question of whether a hell of a lot of application can make talentless punters into grandmasters, but since unfortunately it tends to be the more talented punters who make the effort, we don't really have a control group.


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