Practice Makes Perfect

How do we become accomplished at something?   The book "Outliers" (see ) talks about various examples of circumstances that made people good at something.   

I really liked the example of the Beatles.  Apparently the original Beatles started playing together in high school and were given an opportunity to perform at strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany.  Apparently a booking agent in London was booking groups from Liverpool to perform at these strip clubs.  He found the Beatles and booked them.  They performed in Hamburg for eight to ten hours every night for two weeks and then returned another gig in a few weeks.  It was a dream for the group because they had an opportunity to perform and develop their talent and lots of access to women, booze and drugs.  They performed about 2000 hours each year for four or more years.  This practice gave the group the 10,000 hours they needed to perfect their skill; the rest in history.  Gladstone's point is that they were given an opportunity to perfect their skills by the opportunity.

Another example of fortuitous opportunity is with Bill Gates.  When he was in private high school, a parents group bought a computer for the school and Gates devoted himself to learning programming. Later he figured out how to get night time access to a university computer in his community.  He even got an opportunity in high school to develop a program for a company as a credit course.  By the time he had finished high school he had spent at least 10,000 hours perfecting his programming skills; the rest is history.  

Gladstone's thesis is that to perfect a skill or talent one needs to spend a lot of time at practice to perfect the talent. He concedes that having talent is important but without the opportunity to practice for 10,000 hours we will not perfect the talent or gift.  

I invite comments or questions.  Is anybody out there reading my blogs?   

  1. Jim Reply

    I agree that 10,000 hours is not sufficient but it is a bigger factor than we generally assume. Apparently with IQ, studies show that above a certain threshold level, it is not a differentiator of performance. Somehow all kinds of things come together that determine success. Social skills are an important factor and how do we learn those?
    I do not think I am a 10,000 hours kind of guy and not sure why. Maybe the circumstances have not come together for me. However I am finding that the more I write the more I improve.

  2. Maida Reply

    I think that the 10 000 hours are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. There are a lot of other factors that go into rising to the top – social/emotional intelligence, talent, just plain luck… But it’s an interesting (and, frankly, inspiring) idea!

  3. Stephen Hayward Reply

    Having had the opportunity to discuss this with you, I agree. Often we just assume that people are naturally good and they excel. That is sometimes true, but often it is the perseverance, dedication and practice that make the breakthrough.
    My example is: VJ Singh and golf. Yes he has talent in spades, but it is the practice and application over countless hours that makes him exceed. Lots of people have the talent and don’t get there, lots of people practice but may not have the depth of something (Talent??) to be able to go to the next level. If I practiced as much as VJ, I would never get there.
    My fortuitous opportunity was exposure to business and IT through my Dad. That plus exposure (on drives to and from the city, PD days and so on) that helped build the interest and passion as well as provide me some of my insights and abilities. We often practice ideas and situations.

Leave a Reply

captcha *