The 10,000-Hour Fallacy

Have you heard of the ’10,000-hour rule’ when it comes to practice? The idea, largely popularized by Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’, unintentionally suggests that expertise is a short 10,000-hour stroll away. As seductive as this notion might be, one problem exists—it’s patently false!

The fact of the matter is that many studies, particularly for sports, have shown there’s large variability in the amount of practice hours required to reach an expert level of performance. (And perhaps reassuringly for many of us, examples have been cited in research publications of athletes reaching elite performance with less than 10,000 hours on the practice field or mats.)

As Dr. Anders Ericsson—a revered psychologist whose expertise is on, well, developing expertise—has written, ‘the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.’

Also per Ericsson, deliberate practice ‘involves the provision of immediate feedback, time for problem-solving and evaluation, and opportunities for repeated performance to refine behavior.’

Deliberate practice shouldn’t just be within the domain of those striving to grapple at the Abu Dhabi Combat Championships or wrestle for an NCAA championship. I’d argue that deliberate practice may be even more important for kids and adults whose pursuit of grappling perfection is avocational, and who can only commit a few hours a week to the practice space.

If that sounds like you, here’s a few tips to undertake a more deliberate practice. First, strive to set clear goals for an immediate time period—I find month-to-month works best—and seek out your coach to help you revise them and build a plan. (And if your coach is too busy to meet with you each month to create and implement an individualized plan, GO FIND ANOTHER COACH!!!)

From there, make sure each of your successive practices have a distinct focus towards the articulated goals—train with the appropriate drills and the partners that create the needed level of challenge.

Finally, seek feedback each week from your coach and training partners regarding your progress. This will help you adapt your practice plan, revise your immediate goals, and help you understand what your successive objectives!

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