10,000 hours of practice – Expert or not?

written by Patrick Turner-lee | Art Practise

February 19, 2019

Can 10,000 hours of practice really make you an expert at anything?

The widely touted theory, highlighted in a 1993 psychology paper and popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, says that anyone can master a skill with 10,000 hours of practice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_(book)

Been thinking a lot about the 10000hours debate. So if you put 10000 hours into anything, then you can be approaching a high or even excellent level of expertise. If I just look at some of the basic realities, what initially seems like a simple path to follow quickly becomes difficult. Here are three examples that come to mind.

Time away from canvas equally important

I am an artist and work in oil paint. I love this concept as a way of me measuring progress. However, it throws up many interesting angles and debatable points of view. For instance, in my process I have been discovering and the overarching reality that the time I spend away from the canvas has as much efficacy as the time painting.

So first grain of doubt creeps in as I figure often the painting hours would be 25% of the time I actually spend reflecting and assessing. So after 40000 hours of work time, I am beginning to reach competency or excellence? Now that could put me off.

What is an expert?

What is an expert? Especially in the art world, the idea of an expert is full of contradictions. It may be that innovatory can become a successful attribute without being accomplished. However, we could view this innovation as an experts project?

However, another point could be that each moment actually consists of an amalgamation of all time past and future. So one brush stroke correctly applied may represent a point of genius. Shame that the other 2000 brush strokes didn’t hit the mark. So what is this excellence? How can that be measured?

Personality plays a role

Personality will definitely play a great part in the outcome of a creative effort. Putting in too much time might mean you’re not making good use of it. If that’s the case, you’re more likely to burn out.

Instead, try to focus harder for a defined period of time, then take a rest. I am saying this as much for my benefit as anyone else. I have always been able to make a lot of things but finishing them off efficiently is a skill that I am only just beginning to master.

In summary, I have decided not to keep a record and throw a party when I reach this magical number. Instead, I hold true to the necessary routines to enable my body and mind to naturally understand the relationships between hand and canvas or whatever medium I handle.

Finally, another important factor comes into play. It’s not all about me. Oh, and why not?? It is growing with the intention of providing value for others that makes the whole process of creating a sustainable activity.

Many people are echoing, through their activities that creating value for the person in front of you leads to a healthier and more successful holistic life.


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