What have you spent 10,000 hours doing?
Are you an expert?

I recently read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and learned that whether you are playing an instrument, programming computers or becoming the best you can be – it takes about 10,000 hours.  (there were many other great insights in this book as well – totally worth the read to learn about how birth year, month, culture,etc. may affect success.)

So how much time is 10,000 hours?  If you practiced something 20 hours a week – it would take you almost 10 YEARS to become an expert.  For a student of an instrument to get to that level of expertise, if they started learning their instrument at age ten and practiced about 30 minutes per day – how long would it take to become an expert?  Well at that rate, they only get in about 182 hours in a year.  To get to 10k they would have to practice 30 minutes a day for 54 years!  So we must presume that young ones who start out at 30 minutes a day will work up to a much higher number later in their musical careers.

So I created a quick table – if a student practices 30 minutes each day the first year (or 3.5 hours per week) and increases each year by 30 minutes per day (pretty aggressive schedule) by the time they are 19 they will have 10,000 hours; however, they will be practicing 20 to 30 hours per week during High School.  How realistic is that?!?

age per day per week per year cum.
10 0.5 3.5 182 182
11 1 7 364 546
12 1.5 10.5 546 1092
13 2 14 728 1820
14 2.5 17.5 910 2730
15 3 21 1092 3822
16 3.5 24.5 1274 5096
17 4 28 1456 6552
18 4.5 31.5 1638 8190
19 5 35 1820 10010

Considering that isn’t too realistic, I created another table with a less dramatic increase in time per week whereby an instrumentalist could get in their 10,000 hours by the time they finished graduate school. The student will still be putting in 10 – 18 hours per week through High School, but for the serious musician that and the hours to follow in 6 years of college (undergrad and graduate school) make the 10k possible.

Whew – I better get moving!

age per day per week per year cum.
10 0.5 3.5 182 182
11 0.5 3.5 182 364
12 0.5 3.5 182 546
13 1 7 364 910
14 1 7 364 1274
15 1.5 10.5 546 1820
16 2 14 728 2548
17 2.5 17.5 910 3458
18 2.5 17.5 910 4368
19 2.5 17.5 910 5278
20 3 21 1092 6370
21 3 21 1092 7462
22 3.5 24.5 1274 8736
23 3.5 24.5 1274 10010
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