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You can practice something for 10,000 hours and still be a bit crap at it

(80 Posts)
noblegiraffe Sun 18-Feb-18 12:06:06

Interesting research challenging the '10,000 hours' claim that hard work is sufficient to be great at something.

The hours practised by grandmasters in a chess study went from 832 to over 24,000 and there were players at intermediate level who had practised for longer than the average grandmaster.

I think people already knew this really, but the whole 'growth mindset' fad of recent years has been promoting the idea that anyone can be great at anything. Obviously if you work hard at something, you can get better at it, but there are also other factors at play.

noblegiraffe Sun 18-Feb-18 12:07:01

And I can tell the difference between practise and practice and still mess up a thread title hmm

mrsmayitstimetogo Sun 18-Feb-18 12:09:38

I've always understood the 10,000 hrs thing as being like polishing something. If you want it really shiny, you need to polish it for ages. But the thing that you're polishing still has its own nature. (ie - no matter how much time I spend on trying to play football, I'll still be worse at it than almost anybody else. But a LOT better than I would have been if I hadn't worked on it!)

ScipioAfricanus Sun 18-Feb-18 12:14:46

Yes - I’ve had more than enough of growth mindset. No point me practising theoretical physics for 10,000 hours if I’m hopeless this start with. On the other hand there are things I’m reasonably good at to begin with which I get better at with practice (as we all knew before growth mindset) and are a better and more rewarding use of my time.

I gave up the flute as a teenager realising I’d rather spend my time listening to people playing it well at concerts or on CDs than keep listening to myself playing it with very mediocre skill. Not a decision I’ve regretted.

ScipioAfricanus Sun 18-Feb-18 12:26:38

Presumably the whole thing was based on a fallacy to start with - if you’re looking at people who have spent 10,000 hours on something they will be people who likely had a little bit of interest and skill at least to start with. Unlikely someone who hated the violin with a passion then carried on for 10,000 hours. We tend to like the things we are good at, and this invest more time in them. I think this holds somewhat true even for the children chess prodigies with scary tiger fathers - the father chose chess probably because he liked it, thus the children were genetically more likely to like it and be good at it.

I have often felt that in primary children are built up to be told ‘you can do or be anything’ (I started teaching before growth mindset but not that long ago) and then in secondary we trample over all their dreams by putting them in for foundation exams or steering them away from Maths A Level if they are a B or C grade. Yes, if you work hard maybe you could overcome it but no one has 10,000 hours to spare for each A Level over two years anyway. I don’t see any harm in suggesting to pupils from the start that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, sometimes have to fight on through the hard bits to get to a level of mastery (e.g. GCSE pass in Maths), and there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to spend loads of time and energy on something that doesn’t interest you/you aren’t great at.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Sun 18-Feb-18 12:33:52

I suppose the problem is that until you try working at something for 10,000 hours you won’t know if it is one of your things, and things like basic maths and reading are fairly essential, so it’s important to work at it even if you won’t be the next Stephen Hawkings or Sadie Smith.
I’m pretty sure (especially at 49) that I could spend 10,000 hours working at a sport and still be fairly average, if that, but I’m not going to tell my 9 year old it’s pointless practising his football skills because he might still be rubbish.

physicskate Sun 18-Feb-18 12:34:14

Growth mindset is not about mastery, but improvement. If you keep trying, that thing you are trying will become easier, therefor more enjoyable, therefore you will feel a bit better about keeping with it.

10,000 hours is a separate idea (ideology?) altogether.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Sun 18-Feb-18 12:34:33

*Zadie Smith hmm

noblegiraffe Sun 18-Feb-18 12:50:22

physics lots of people have their own interpretations of growth mindset, but the idea that if you work hard you'll get better at it is simply what teachers have been saying since forever. That's not what growth mindset is about.

"“What schools are doing under the name of growth mindset is encouraging students that, whatever your talents are, you can become more proficient,” he says. “And that’s a very positive message. But it’s not how Carol Dweck defines growth mindset.”

"Sympathy for this point of view comes from an unexpected source. “I share some of the frustrations,” says Carol Dweck. “I’m leading the vanguard of frustrations with how some educators may be saying ‘work harder’ and think they’re growing children’s intelligence.

“‘Work harder’ is something adults have said for centuries. It’s called nagging, and it doesn’t work. That’s not growth mindset"

ScipioAfricanus Sun 18-Feb-18 12:58:55

I have very poor hand/eye coordination. I don’t need to practise tennis for 10,000 hours to get a sense that it is unlikely I’ll ever be good at it. I think about 100 hours would be ample; 50 probably sufficient.

This doesn’t mean here’s no point in playing it and practising it - I’ll probably get better at it and if I want to do 10,000 hours because I love it anyway, the. Of course I should do it. However, the 10,000 hours nonsense that has been spouted is that I would become really good purely because of the 10,000 hours put into it, whatever my starting point. I think this is an unhelpful notion, and has nothing to do with whether you should put the time in to improve something you have to do or want to do.

Rosieposy4 Sun 18-Feb-18 16:33:08

I ride for a hobby. I must have spent many times in excess of 10000 hours riding over my lifetime. I am worse now than i was 20years ago and certainly not great ( bog standard average amateur). If only i had turned into mary King by default.

BarbarianMum Sun 18-Feb-18 19:14:47

I think it would be hard to train and practice something for 10, 000 hours and still be hopeless at it. You might not be great but I don't think there are many things that are so intrinsically difficult that the average human couldn't make fair progress in that time. You'd need some good tuition in that time and guidance as to how to practise for progress (rather than endless repeating your mistakes).

lljkk Sun 18-Feb-18 19:48:59

I've improved hugely at some things, but am very crap compared to other people who have done 10,000 hours.

All you need to do to prove this is to get a bunch of 7 yr old boys to play a football game (or run a race, or try to throw something far, etc).

50% of them will sincerely think they're truly amazing & will try their best every time. Yet some immediately stand out hugely with natural talent. Give them all 10,000 hours tuition.. and guess what, the very best ones will be almost the exact same kids who were great at 7yo when only zero hours under their belt. The others will be much BETTER, but they won't be the best for 10,000 hours.

noblegiraffe Sun 18-Feb-18 20:45:53

I’m reminded of Helen Glover, the rower in the Olympics who won gold despite only having rowed for 4 years, who responded to an advert for tall athletic people.

I’m tall, but I’m not athletic. Put me in the same training programme and I would not have won gold! And she was competing against other teams who had been rowing for much longer.

lljkk Sun 18-Feb-18 21:14:53

Primož Roglič is a sensation in current cycling world, especially road racing in 2017.

PR was a ski jumper before that, competed in 2010 Winter Olympics. Took up cycling b/c ski jumping was too competitive.

There are loads of top cyclists with similar stories, they shifted over from another sport. Yvonne McGregor was a champ fell runner, didn't start competing at cycling until almost 30yo. Chris Hoy was an elite rower at junior level. Wikipedia has a list of multi-sport athletes.

BarbarianMum Sun 18-Feb-18 21:20:10

There is a big difference bw becoming competent at something and becoming the best of the best. If you learn and practice the violin for 10, 00 hours you may not become first violin in the New York Philharmonic but you will be able to play the violin.

noblegiraffe Sun 18-Feb-18 21:24:28

Gladwell said 10,000 hours was the ‘magic number for greatness’.

Pretty sure he didn’t sell books on the premise that if you work for 10,000 hours at something you’d get better at it!

BarbarianMum Sun 18-Feb-18 21:32:51

Have to admit I never read the book. My understanding was that, no matter how much innate talent you had, 10,000 hours were necessary for mastery.

cakeisalwaystheanswer Mon 19-Feb-18 10:19:48

I thought the 10,000 hours for sport got debunked years ago by The Sports Gene by David Epstein. Some people are just physically advantaged to be better at some sports because of build, muscle types etc, for example even top bascketball players thought to be "relatively short" have the arm span of a much taller person. There are also huge differences in people's trainability, some people respond much better and quicker to training than others. It also points out that the 10,000 hours was an average so it took some people 30,000 hours some 2,000 etc. In your case Rosioposy maybe another 20,000 hours in the saddle will make all the difference.

Its a really interesting book it looked at the Australian gold winning netball team a few years back, although all the girls were sporty they only averaged about 700-800 hours of actually playing netball each. It also examined the all Ethiopians are great runners myth.

slightlyglittermaned Mon 19-Feb-18 10:37:40

Weird that the article doesn't quote Anders Ericsson himself who has criticised the 10k hours popularisation. (And pointed out that the students they studied were not experts after 10k hours anyway!)

Really recommend reading Peak which gives a much more nuanced, more useful description of his research. He does talk about the hours of practice results, but he also comments on the effect of mental representations on improvement. It'd be interesting to see his response - an article saying "oh hey the popularisers made up an idea and ran with it" isn't that interesting.

Collection2000 Mon 19-Feb-18 10:45:21

Scipio has it right.

If you put 1000 hours into something and you're still crap at it, you're unlikely to put in the other 9000 hours anyway.

(Unless it's something you really enjoy for some reason, in which case you keep doing it as a hobby with no expectation of ever performing particularly well like me with swimming .)

happygardening Mon 19-Feb-18 11:06:25

Rosie I too ride as a serious hobby have ridden since I was 3 yrs old and am now middle aged. I ride 4-5 hours a week minimum and ride better now then 20 years ago.
I always say to other horse riders the effort you put in will show in the results you get out. Without a doubt top riders and others only achieve by practising practising practising. I think it’s also a mind set I’m never complacent with how the horse is performing I analayse every stride the horse takes even if we’re just plonking down the road constantly asking myself is it right could it be better what can I do to make it better?

gillybeanz Mon 19-Feb-18 11:14:31

I'm interested in this as I've known it apply to a couple of people.
I believe you have to look at other things too, like the quality of that practice.
if you are going to make something your life work, it doesn't seem too many hours to become proficient.
At my dd school they are all musicians, they practice for hours a day and 2/3 of their day is devoted to music with only a third for academic work.
They are up very early and practice before school, during the day, and evening too.
It works out about 30 hours per week, that's a lot.
Then of course they are expected to do four hours daily durin the weekend and holidays.
They really hardly ever stop.

numbereightyone Mon 19-Feb-18 11:18:17

I see a lot of children who are being made to train like Olympic athletes because their parents are ambitious and believe the 10,000 hour principle.

howabout Mon 19-Feb-18 11:32:20

Agree the Anders Ericsson research is much much more nuanced than "10,000 hours".

I prefer quotations like "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration".

In education the more and earlier testing, selection and differentiation goes on, the more we give children the impression that there is nothing they can do to counteract their "failures" to meet the test specs. Anything which works in the opposite direction like "growth mindset" seems positive although pretty much like pushing the river going the other way uphill.

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