10,000 Hours


The writer Malcolm Gladwell has been famously misquoted by many people who have never read his books as saying that ‘to become expert in anything you need to put in 10,000 hours’. The problem is, Gladwell never said you needed 10,000 hours to be an expert, he said that you need 10,000 hours to be a phenom (slang term): To be so freakishly good at something, to be such a standout among your peers, that sometimes your first name is enough to tell people who you are: Ayrton (Senna), Tiger (Woods) or Venus (Williams) spring to mind.

But, as clever as Mr Gladwell is in his book ‘Outliers, the Story of Success’, this thought was not his:  In fact it was the neurologist Daniel Levitin who stated, when discussing K Anders Ericsson’s study of violinists’ practice time that “The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,” 

It doesn’t take 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert woodworker. It takes less than that. Don’t get me wrong, you have to know a lot about the things you make, why you make them, how you make them. You have to have spent thousands of hours doing it. You have to have put the craft into your hands by practising the right things repeatedly.

If that all seems a little overwhelming, remember that my point is this: The wood won’t change shape all by itself. So, go and and add a few more minutes to your total practice because it is enjoyable. You won’t regret it.

Have fun.

– Paul Mayon


2 thoughts on “10,000 Hours

  1. This is great advice. Sometimes I make random joints from scrap timber just to practise my marking, sawing and pairing. It’s fun and the basic techniques I need improve.

    • Hi David – all I could get done during the week was practising my saw technique. But at least I was able to do something. It is good to se that you take the same approach of ‘just doing something’ even if it is very little. The key is to remember to practice stance and technique to ensure you are not reinforcing bad habits.

      Keep it up!

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