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Motivate Yourself 106: Practise Makes Perfect

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In my January podcast I briefly mentioned something that is often referred to as "The 10,000 hour rule" for becoming a master of something.

And it prompted an email from a listener asking me to confirm whether or not it is true, that 10,000 hours over 10 years is all we need to do to become the best we could possibly be.

And the answer is......

No.

The rule of 10,000 hours to become a master was born out of a small study on German violinists in the 1990's, yet this idea has become widely accepted and is quoted by many sports psychology article.

Yet there is no research that confirms this at all, and plenty that proves it wrong. but once something gets into popular culture then it becomes believable.

The German violinist study tried to show that in a group of 30 violinists 'natural talent' didn't seem to make a difference to the skill of the violinist. As none of the particularly good players had developed quickly enough for it to be natural and there was a correlation between how well they played and how much they had practised throughout their life.
But very few had actually made it as far as 10,000 hours, most had practised far less. But a few had put in a heck of a lot more than 10,000 hours. pulling the average up to this high, magic number.

But, there was more to the research than just practise, such as the better players averaging more sleep which is hugely important in the learning process.

But an author called Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers and wrote a chapter called the 10,000 hour rule based on the findings of the German violinists. The book became very popular and so this belief in 10,000 hours began.

But what we've discovered lately is not that 'more' practice makes perfect but 'better' practice makes perfect. There is a massive difference between Mozart being taught the piano at 18 months so that by age 6 he has already having amassed 6000 hours of practice and grabbing a stranger off the street who hates the piano and forcing them to play for 6000 hours.
They both have a totally different attitude.

Also, one thing to bear in mind is that Mozart was probably autistic, which, depending on the severity, has obvious downsides, but one of the upsides to mild Autism is the ability to focus on something to the exclusion of everything else, to have a passion and enthusiasm for something that other people may not understand.
And if what you latch on to is Chess rather than Trainspotting then you're far more likely to become a Grandmaster at Chess than someone else who put the same hours in but without the focus of attention.

Ok, this doesn't mean that you have to be mildly autistic to become a master at something it just shows us that the way we feel as we practice makes a big difference.
It's sometimes called 'Deliberate Practise' or 'Deep Practise', and what we've come to learn is that when wanting to get great at something you have to do it your own way. One size does not fit all.
The best way for you to learn the guitar or a new language is not going to be the same way as someone else.

In his book 'The Talent Code' Daniel Coyles talks about meeting a young girl who plays tennis and has a one handed backhand exactly like Roger Federer. She was only 8 and when he asked her where she learned her backhand, she didn't know, her coach didn't know but her mother casually mentioned later on about watching some video tapes of Roger Federer apparently that's something the family would often do together, sit and watch Roger Federer play tennis.
No wonder this kid didn't know where she'd picked it up it was being learned most of her life by accident, just from enjoying watching a game on the TV.

I think there's a lot to learn from all of this because this translates into other areas of life so well, because we expect that in order to become skilled at a sport we have to be passionate and enthusiastic and put in some effort, we expect to not be very good at first, but to improve slowly with practise.

As Michael Jordan said

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

And isn't that the same with everything we do?
Shouldn't we have that same patience with ourselves to turn failure into stepping stones to greater success?

In all that we strive to achieve, whether that's to get better at writing, at public speaking at playing the drums, whatever!

If we want to improve ourselves in any aspect we have do it with focus, maybe even to the point of absorption which is why you're reading this or listening to my podcast, and in doing so you are already on the way to success because there are far more people who wish they could improve their life and are doing nothing about it, and you are already one step ahead!
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