The 10,000-hour rule: how to not be crap at something

There is one thing that completely annoys me about my boyfriend. He is better than me at ten pin bowling.

That, in itself, isn’t the annoying part. What gets my blood boiling is the fact that he is easily better than me and doesn’t even care about winning.  On the other hand, I’m more competitive than a bride-to-be at a wedding dress clearance sale and I’m constantly bowling gutter balls. My frustration is usually abated by a hot dog and a Coke, along with the realisation that if I truly wanted to beat my boyfriend at ten pin bowling, then I’d actually need to practice.

The truth is that we rarely become good at something without practice. There are some people that are blessed with natural ability and talent, but this will only get you to a ticket to the game. To become proficient at something, let alone a master, requires a lot of hard work, perseverance, and practice, practice, practice!

This is a sad reality whenever we try something new (or if we are just plain impatient). We want to be instantly good at something because it sucks big time to be completely crap at it. I’ve certainly felt and experienced this inadequacy on many occasions, not with just with ten pin bowling, but when I’m cornering on my motorbike, doing short turns when skiing, breathing on my right side while swimming laps, touching up pictures in Photoshop, and especially when I’m writing.

We probably all remember the  time when we first learned to drive.  It was hard work at the beginning, when we had to concentrate so hard to work the accelerator and the clutch at the same time, picking the correct gear, checking the mirrors, flicking the indicators, and then having to do all of these things in quick succession!  However, after many, many hours of driving experience, we can do all of these things on autopilot.

learner driver

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains his 10,000-Hour Rule. He postulates that achieving greatness in something requires 10,000 hours of practicing the specific task. That means that I would need to practice my ten pin bowling for 10 hours a week for almost 20 years before I could be world champion material. Yikes! But hey, if I was serious about my bowling, then this is the dedication required.

Even if I don’t aspire to world-dominating greatness in my bowling, skiing, or my writing, the message is the same. It’s not rocket science, but I will only get better at something if I keep practicing, keep training, and keep learning from my mistakes. I will try not to get too despondent when I screw up, and I will have days when I’m just not in the game. I just have to keep thinking about clocking up those 10,000 hours.

Or maybe switch to bumper bowling!

* Image source

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4 thoughts on “The 10,000-hour rule: how to not be crap at something

  1. You’ve read outliers haven’t you? The 10k rule is to achieve mastery of something – you don’t need near that to become ‘passably good’ at something.
    The quick way is to find out the quickest way to get to that 80% proficiency level, then rely on luck or excuses if you lose 😉

    • I have read Outliers – really enjoyed it. How would you go about finding that quick way to get to the 80% proficiency level? I think that something like learning proper technique and skill correction would go a long way?

  2. DUDE. We are forming the Pin Heads as soon as I move home and we’re going to bowl every week until we’re too old to lift bowling balls. Admittedly that will likely mean more hot dogs than strikes, but hey. Every little bit counts.

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