Sunday, July 6, 2008

Got 10,000 Hours to Spare?


This morning I spent a couple of hours at the bookstore with my girlfriend and was flipping my way through several books. One of them was a book that I started reading a couple of years back and never finished: "This Is Your Brain On Music." When I read the back of the book, I saw something that grabbed my eye. There was a claim that to become a virtuoso, you need to practice for 10,000 hours, rather than be born with some innate "gift." I read that section of the book and was pleasantly surprised, because this applies to everything, from tap dancing to playing the piano.

The way it breaks down is to practice three hours a day, every day, for ten years. This level of dedication is far beyond that of most people, but is actually is doable. When we got back home I went online and started going to different websites, just to see what the opinion was of this. There were a lot of different takes on it, and some guy broke it down into how good you would be at something after an hour, ten hours, a hundred hours, etc. It seems as though some people need to have clearly defined milestones, just so they can slap a label on their progress and thus can say "I have arrived" when they reach a certain point. Hell, I'm still trying to figure out at what point I can say "I am a linguist" and not "I am a student of linguistics."

So why even bring this up? First of all, I just find shit like this interesting. It's a nice number to throw at people when you feel like showing off ("Hey guys, wanna know how long it takes to be an expert at something? Do ya?"). Second, it's another attack against the idea of innate abilities. I'm not going to knock our natural tendencies, or continue the lie that there are no real differences between men an women. I just like the idea that in order to be good at something, you actually need to get off your ass and do the work for it, rather than piss and moan that you weren't born with the genius of a Mozart or the ball-handling skills of a Michael Jordan. For a lot of people, it's easier to just throw the idea of innate ability around, rather than face the fact that they just aren't that good at something because they don't practice. Lock yourself in your room for three hours a day, every single goddamn day, and practice, and in ten years you'll be an expert at something.

And if you're not, send me a message and I'll apologize for lying to you.

1 comment:

cherrybomb said...

"A child prodigy is a child who masters one or more skills or arts at an early age. One generally accepted heuristic for identifying prodigies is: a prodigy is a child, typically younger than 13 years old, who is performing at the level of a highly trained adult in a very demanding field of endeavor. [1] [1] Examples would include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Pablo Picasso."

...and the Tenenbaum children.