The 1000 Hour Rule – by James Altucher


Crazy or genius? Well, writer/thinker/speaker James Altucher has them both covered in an entertaining way. This is his take on Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10 000 hour rule. I like it so I quote it in part below and link to his full post here.

THE 1000 HOUR RULE (note: this is NOT the 10,000 hour rule. One less zero).

Everybody knows the 10,000 HOUR RULE. The one popularized by Malcolm Gladwell that basically says if you do dedicated practice for 10,000 hours you can master a field. You can reach your full potential or close to it.

He used the Beatles as an example. They spent 10,000 hours playing music 18 hours a day in German porn clubs for five years and became the best in the world.

It makes sense. If you practice painting water colors for 10,000 hours you will be among the best in the world at water color painting.

Here’s the problem: We don’t just have one passion or love in life. The universe wants us to have fun doing more than one thing in life. That’s how it learns. You don’t have one purpose in life. You have maybe 500 or so.

And 10,000 hours is a lot of time. It’s anywhere from 5-30 years of your life. And then you die. And what do you show for it? That you’re great at watercolor painting. Not everyone is going to be the Beatles. That involves some luck also.

So I prefer the 1000 hour rule.

If you practice ANYTHING for one thousand hours and make sure it’s dedicated practice then you will STILL be among the best in the world.

How come? Because with anything worth learning there is a steep learning curve. In the first 1000 hours your ability goes straight up. Then it starts to even out as you learn more of the subtleties required to be among the best.

Here’s the thing: NOBODY GIVES A SHIT.

Since only the best in the world can really appreciate the subtleties and 99.9999% of the world can’t tell the difference between somebody who has studied for 1000 hours versus someone who has studied for 10,000 hours then you can appear to be the best in the world and get much of the benefits of it by just putting in 1000 hours of dedicated practice.

In fact, if you get good at learning new things, then you can even take another zero off. The 100 hour rule. Or maybe 200 hours. This makes life a LOT better and more fun. You can take that zero off after you get really good at the first thing.

Because then you have learned how to learn. So that saves a lot of energy on the next thing you learn.

Phew! This one rule has saved me decades of time. I can’t be the world champion at chess but I can be a chess master. I can’t be a billionaire but I can perhaps learn enough about a field to make a real contribution to society.

And I can do it more than once. In fact, I can do it every year of my life and learn many things.

Thank god for the 1000 hour rule. (or the 100 hour rule).”

10 000 Hours – The Mastery Number?


Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase 10 000 hours in his book “Outliers” and what he meant with that was that to achieve mastery in anything, you need at least 10 000 hours, no matter what and how much talent you possess.

As I get older I’m really starting to grasp this idea more and more. Looking at both my writing and my tennis, I’m beginning to realize the sheer amount of work I need to put in to keep improving. But this is not off-putting, rather the opposite, since I know that as long as I’m working hard and consciously trying to improve – I will.

There is obviously some debate going around whether 10 000 hours is enough for everyone to reach mastery. And then we also have the relativity of what “mastery” really is. It’s difficult to get around the fact that some are just more genetically predisposed to become great athletes, musicians, or whatever, than others.

But if you have passion for something, consistently improving should be one thing you strive for, even if you can’t reach the lofty goals of your heroes. Advancing your skills is a lot of fun on its own!

It’s a funny thing about learning something new. Some won’t settle for less than those 10 000 hours while guys like Tim Ferriss are happy to learn it “well enough”, fast enough.

I like to learn new things too, but I’m not as obsessed as Ferriss, even though the guy is a genius in many respects. I tend to stick to the hobbies I have: writing, tennis and some recreational guitar-playing. If I can make small advancements here and there, I’m pretty happy. I have big dreams, but reaching them takes mountains of work and every small step counts.

Is the mountain 10 000 hours? I think that depends, but the number makes us understand the sacrifice and dedication it takes. It’s a reminder that few things in life are free and if you want something you have to work hard for it. And if you’re going to work that hard for something, you should make sure it’s something you really want and love. That’s the question we should ask ourselves: what do I love to do enough for me to reach 10 000 hours with a smile on my face.

I think that question might be better than asking yourself whether it has business potential or not. Because if you really like this thing and you get really, really good at it, then everything is possible.

Go and get your 10 000 hours (or whatever that number is for you) now!

Jeff Goins wrote a good post about what made Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps a true champ. Read it here.