10.000 Hours makes an Expert

  • Hello everyone,

    Have you heard the famous legend that if you keep learning and working with a topic for 10.000 hours, you would become a master?

    Do you have a topic you have studied and worked for the 10.000 hours? If not, what topic would you be interested in in order to become a true professional?


    Adam Peters

  • Well, 10.000 hours, that's 1250 days of normal workdays, or 830 days of a 12 h day ... or a few years.

    As I am old, I have experienced that several times, let me tell about 3.

    First: when I studied at university, my side job was driving a taxi. First year was hard and tough. To learn about the town, all the streets and addresses, and about the guests, from drunken people to a sheik, wo I picke up at the main station ... and all the ways how they try to cheat and pay less ... second year was easier and in third year I KNEW the town, I knew the adresses, the shortest way and colleagues asked ME where to find that party shed outside the suburbs. I felt so sure about the job, the radio calls, behaviour of guests and the prices, that I finally was able to do the homework for university while waiting for the next guest.

    Second was my main job, IT. Programming, developing, project management, and leading teams or rescuing projects out of time. But I doubted, if I ever would be an expert. I did all the jobs and projects, successfully, but I always felt there is so much more to learn.

    However, now decades later, I am retiring and do little side jobs. Like lately an application for a charity to collect data of their actions. I noticed that I have gone through thos 10.000 h. A few weeks ago the IT guy, half my age, of that charity asked: "How are you doing that, Klabbauter? Your application never fails, there are no bugs, it restarts by itself, there no problems with client-server-communication, and it never stopped yet. How did you do that?"

    That is, when I noticed, how much I had put into that code with no thinking, just automatically: declarations of variables, good and complete initialisation, checking each server reply for errors and timeouts, check input carefully. All that needed no thinking, almost no time ... and I think that is one step from "I can code programs" to "I am a professional progger".

    Third, and the one where it was obvious to me: Sailing. Sailing yachts as a skipper. Being responsible for the crew and the passengers. Being responsible to bring back that yacht into the harbour. I failed on my first try to get the skipper license. I was much better, when I did the second try, and got it. And then I sailed a lot. All my vacations I used to sail, first on Ijsselmeer, then on the Baltic, later in the mediterranian, the north sea and the carribean.

    After a few years I noticed something like a special sense, that told me where the underwater rocks are, how much time it would need to the harbour ... and even the weather ... Imagine, when I looked for hiding spot, a hurrican hole, I sailed south to that spot on Carriacou, though the forecast told, the hurricane would turn south. Actually during the night, hidden in the mangroves, I heard the new forecast: It's turning north. How did I know that?

    Or in Kos harbour I woke up 5 minutes BEFORE that ferry came in with so much speed scrambling all the yachts ... but I was out and watched the moorings ... what was it to wake me up?

    So yes, I agree to that claim. Maybe somtimes 5000 hours work, maybe sometimes 15,000 are needed ... but at a point you know the topic in a way that you even cannot tell how you do it.

    But I want to add: in all three cases, there were masters who taught me. Experienced professionals that were on that step already, and I was able to copy them. One thing to become professional is to learn ...10,000 hours, but to have people that you can model, imitate, copy and NOT rely that you will be better ... that's the other way to professionalism. Learn from good and perfect examples, look how they do it, accept that they found some good methods ... so my claim would be: learn 5000 h from book and from doing that job, and learn another 5000 h by watching people who are good at that job already.

    Rem Koolhaas: „If less is more, maybe nothing is everything.“

    Eleanor Roosevelt: "Great minds discuss ideas --- average minds discuss events --- small minds discuss people."

  • I don't think that it is possible to put a timescale on how long it takes for someone to become a 'Master'.

    If you take into consideration, that each person learns in different ways (visual, auditory etc) if you placed me and another person in front of the exact same resources for the 10,000 hours we are both going to become 'Masters' at different times, different paces. Also - my expertise might be in a different way to someone else, as we don't all see life/the world in the same way.

    You also would have to take into consideration neuro-typical and neuro-diverse people, and for both groups the topic you are trying to become a 'Master' in would mean that the time 'needed' varies.

    However, I don't think you can ever reach a point in life where you know every single thing about a subject, and therefore I don't believe that anyone can call themselves a Master of a subject. Life is about learning, and the world is constantly moving. By the time you've spent those 10,000 hours there is going to be at least one thing that has changed.

    Most importantly, you have to have passion for the subject you are choosing to 'study' to become a 'Master' of. Peoples passions change, because life experiences lead to changes however minute, or however large in a person and their interests.

    Therefore, I don't consider myself a Master in any subject, nor do I wish to be because if I didn't have opportunities to open doors and learn it would lead to a boring existence for me.


    Wake up with determination. Go to bed with satisfaction. <3