10,000 rule, think again

We’ve all heard about the rule of 10,000. Some feel that doing 10,000 of something can make you an expert or a master. Well, think again.

The fitness industry would like you to believe that taking 10,000 steps daily will lead you to lose weight. Well, it doesn’t. I’ve known a number of people who have through their fitbit, monitored 10,000 steps a day and not lost the weight. So, they give up and go back to sitting on the sofa.

Number 1: That’s because we misconstrue the actual meaning of the rule of 10,000 that Malcolm Gladwell made famous from his book, Outliers.

Ander Ericsson explains it in his research paper “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”.  The key word there is “deliberate”.

Geoff Colvin in his book, Talent is Overated, describes Deliberate practice. It is characterized by several elements, each worth examining. It is activity designed specifically to improve performance, it can be repeated a lot, feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or business-related activities, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn’t much fun.


Number 2: So, doing something 10,000 times is not enough if you want to be a Master.

To date I have 17,000 hours of coaching executives, but the building of my skill was deliberate. It was designed to improve my skill through the targeting of specific industries, different cultures and different coaching topics with continual feedback.


Number 3: I think the better journey to expertise is to balance nurture with nature.

Plan your deliberate practice (nurture) in your areas of strength (Nature).

My natural strength of quickly building trust with people along with my ability to influence was a great place to start. Then I had to nurture those skills through planned deliberate practice.

Planning to practice is wonderful, but you still have to do it. Therefore start with small steps, small goals now. Once you start seeing the benefits of those first steps, you can build on the momentum to plan the next steps and so on.

But a big caveat. It took me 19 years to get to 17,000 hours. This journey is not for the faint of heart.

Take action, make a difference.