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December 16, 2008

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felix

the '10,000 hours to become an expert' rule is so glib, fatuous and vague that it is surely completely meaningless. The most obvious problem being that not every skill requires the same amount of time to master.

Paul Graham

How long have you been working at your current job?

Mukund Mohan

Case of finding some statistics to rationalize what you wanted to do anyway. 10,000 number is pretty arbitrary regardless of what Outliers and Malcom say.

Chris Anderson

@Paul: Seven and half years.

Travis

Sounds like a nice spin on the three-year itch. As opposed to getting sick of your job in three years, you use that as a deadline to become an expert at it.

Jimmy

I take issue with your arithmetic. 3,000 hours per year means 9,000 hours after three years, meaning you'd get your 10,000th hour a third of the way into your fourth year

Chris Anderson

@Jimmy: D'oh! I meant a bit "after" your third year, not "into". Fixed.

Jarred

Hi Chris,

Your post was really thought-provoking, and the minute I read it I contrasted it to Lawrence Lessig's recent(ish) decision, after 10 years of working on the free culture movement, to switch focus to investigating and fighting corruption. These two seemed at odds somewhat, and so I decided to write up a post discussing it: http://tropophilia.com/2008/12/17/impatient-experts-deciding-when-or-if-to-try-something-new/.

I know (and note in the post) that your advice was given with only the best intentions, but I wonder if you'll agree that to members of my generation (20-somethings) the concern isn't whether we'll be inclined to do something new every few years, but whether we'll be inclined to toil at something long enough -- and perhaps beyond the point of achieving mastery -- in order to give back, lead, and do good in the world.

andy mulholland

I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with this very good post. This may be beacause of the specific nature of business sector i work in, IT systems and services, and additionaly the nature of my role as Chief Technology Officer.

My disagreement with changing jobs at three years is obvious, and maybe wrong, but with the ever increasing depth of technology areas we need to make sure that we have real expertise in the selected areas. This clearly leads towards allowing people to develop their career within their selected area of technology.

My agreeement is more complex to explain; firstly we are at risk that we have fewer and fewer people with enough abilities across most technologies to understand large solutions that employ an increasingly number of technology areas, so in this case the arguement for job rotation works.

Secondly given the speed that technology is changing there is an arguement that keeping people in 'fixed' roles and technologies means that they will produce out dated solutions.

My personal conclusion is probably that the ratio between the two groups is moving towards favouring the arguement to switch people at three years, but certainly not to switch everyone!

Angela Connor

You know, I think that's been the case with me as well. Now that I am also blogging passionately about online communities and heavily involved in social media platforms, I feel as though I need to do something new every 6 months. And now that I've written that I think that perhaps this something new every six months is really something "a little different." How does this translate to the much faster medium where we all are striving to be relevant, make a difference and maybe even work a plan B in the midst of this insane economy?

Angela Connor

You know, I think that's been the case with me as well. Now that I am also blogging passionately about online communities and heavily involved in social media platforms, I feel as though I need to do something new every 6 months. And now that I've written that I think that perhaps this something new every six months is really something "a little different." How does this translate to the much faster medium where we all are striving to be relevant, make a difference and maybe even work a plan B in the midst of this insane economy?

Harrison Ainsworth

Yes, do something different regularly -- I would say every two years rather than longer.

But the relation to expertise is ill-founded. The research on expert performance (eg.: 'The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance' Ericsson, Krampe, Tesch-Romer) is quite particular about how those 10000 hours are spent: it is as *effortful/deliberate* practice, and it is limited to about 4 hours a day (and there are other considerations too).

Mike Dunham

I have always believed a person should never stop learning, exploring, doing new things. My life has always been a quest it seems - and I'm totally happy with that. We live in a wonderful age. We have more research tools and knowledge at our fingertips than ever. We can reach other people in many ways.

I don't know if there is a cycle that makes any sense, but I know that continuing to learn from new perspectives is part of critical thinking. I often think our education system misses the mark by teaching to test - instead of teaching to learn. Innovation and change are moving too fast for education to keep up. But give a person the tools to research and analyze what they find and they will keep learning the rest of their lives. And just to put one more log on the fire, recent labor statistics show that at least in technology, very few people remain with the same employer more than 3 years.

Satpal Parmar

Well I think too many people took 10000-hour-Genius thing too seriously. Is that means marketers start telling truth (Malcolm Gladwell is a marketer. right?)?

Anyway I am little confused with maths done here.

60 hours a week= 5 days a week * 12 hours a day

How many Oofus work 12 hours a day continuesly for years? Is it feasible? (Unless your are a newly minted MBA working as investment banker diging for next financial engineering tool)

Ok lets assume we can do it.

3000 hour / 60 hour s week =50 weeks.

We have 52 weeks in a year.Assuming 6 days a week we have (4 sunday a month *12 month)/7 = 7 weeks

If we amke a more realistic 5 days a week we have 14 weeks in weekends.


Apart from this we have aother many holidays and i can easly count one more week holiday for all

so in total we have 15 non working weekend. This calculation leave us 52-15= 37 working weekends not 50.

I think you trying too hard to fit your do-new-thing-every=three-year theory in 10000-hour-genius crap or am I missing someting ?


Jennifer

Great article! I really need to go do something like yesterday.

John Walker

What does it take to become an expert? Well, of course it does depend on what the field is. If we're talking about sucking a lollipop, probably not very long. If we're talking about becoming a chess grandmaster, a scientist, or a tinkermaker's bottom knocker, i.e. something that is very, very difficult to do, according to K. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul Feltovich and Robert Hoffman in their Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, it takes more than nascent talent. Ideally, you need to start young, have the support of your family, receive expert tuition, and be prepared to sustain effortful practice over a long period.
As Feltovich, Prietula and Anders Ericsson put it, 'expert performers acquire skills to develop complex representations that allow them immediate and integrated access to information and knowledge relevant to the demands of action in current situations and tasks…' (p.52)
I bet you acquired/worked like stink for much of the instrumental knowledge and skills you have in your early years, Chris. And then you applied it to your chosen domain. Every one of your three-year turns will provide opportunities for the necessary reflection, problem solving, and appropriate feedback, which further deepen your knowledge and skills base.
By the way, it's only my opinion but the Cambridge Handbook is a quantum leap on Gladwell's book.

Richard

I agree with this strategy but how do you implement it without being labeled a "Job Jumper".

Tiara

This is interesting! I've always felt that I have a 3-4 year rhythm to things. The general scope and principles of my work has stayed consistent - creatively doing good - but my methods or my location change. Any more than that and I feel stagnant and have major urges to move. Thanks for bringing it up!

Eric Wilbanks

Thanks, Chris! Food for thought. I just read an interesting article the other day comparing "Outliers" with "Talent Is Overrated," but it did not occur to me that 10,000 hours squeezed out of a 40+ hour work week would certainly shorten the time frame. Duh!

Anyway. My background is in religious education (pastoral). Over the years, I noticed that--almost without fail--it took a minimum of three years for pastors to establish the necessary relationships and contextual expertise to have any real impact at a given post. It is also worth noting that Christ Himself spent approximately 3 years in public ministry before He "moved on" and left it in the hands of His disciples.

As I said, food for thought (though I am reticent to draw any hard conclusions). Thanks again. Love your blog!

Atul Rana

This makes perfect sense to me now! When I was a kid I lived and travelled my family as part of a diplomatic family. We could literally be moved to any country in the world. I guess that explains why I don't feel that energy and buzz I used to once now that I've stayed put in one country for so long...

Will

I got laid off my first job after 14 months with a master's degree, so I started contracting and jumping around to take control back and make more money. I get bored easily too. It's worked wonders for me.

Nobody should take these numbers literally, but they are good guidelines. I would argue it takes longer than 3 years full time to master jazz guitar for example (I should know after 27 years of playing).

For me, it's more like 'Set bigger goals every 3 years'. After making up to $200K/year in IT consulting I needed a new bigger goal to get the juices flowing again, so I am now shooting for $1 million per year. I plan to achieve this with some online businesses (which requires a lot more learning and doing) and give more to charity. It's not all about the money, but new challenges and experiences.

Eric

This is probably great advice for a whole lot of professions and fields, but I can't help but think there are also professions where this advice would do the profession at large a huge disservice. Surely in technical disciplines, there are jobs where you NEED experts to stick around, rather than just wander off and decide to do something else. Large banks of knowledge accumulate within these people, and if they never stuck around for even half a decade, I think the productivity cost would be considerable.

Similarly, I'm not sure I want colleges and grad schools where all the professors and lecturers have only 3 years of teaching under their belts. Many of my best professors had seen generations through their classrooms.

Some jobs - and the performing of those jobs - arguably get better with age, even if journalism isn't one of them.

Eric

(I realize, btw, that you were not necessarily advocating profession or career shifts of any kind every 3 years; my concerns are about cases where locational shifts involve leaving a company, industry, or school. I should have made that clearer.)

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asfdsfd

I dunno. In any case, all of this means I'm surely a profoundly expert self-amuser.

McClain Lee

I like this idea of 10,000 hours. I started playing golf at the tender age of 58 and now have put in 3 years and about 3,500 hours. I went from 36 handicap to now a 15 handicapper without a single lesson. I figure I will be in my 70 ties before I have become an expert. Playing less but getting lower score. I broke 90 just 3 weeks ago. The next 7 years should be interesting-I am not sure why but there is a guy i see often-he is 87 years old-looks like 60 years-plays golf often. I know I can beat him but that is not the point-10,000 hours seem like a idea goal in our twilight years.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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