One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gladwell’s formula; 10,000 hours to greatness

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Outliners; the story of success” has provided a formula for greatness; 10,000 hours of practice at a specific craft from age of 10 to 20 years. This means 2.7 hours of practicing each day for 10 years. People who put 4000 hours of practice at particular craft end up becoming teachers at that field. What about people who put less than 4000 hours of practice in a craft? The natural conclusion is that, they will grow to a level, commonly known as amateurs.

He provides some big names as evidences of his argument like Bill Gates who does not need any introduction (A famous computer programmer who founded Microsoft and become a billionaire) and Bobby Fischer who was the 11th world class champion and is considered as greatest chess player of all time (Wikipedia; ) started winning championship at age of fourteen (14).

The 10,000 hours practice is really interesting because it quantifies the commonly known and quoted proverb, “practice makes perfect”. Everybody accepts the fact the practice makes perfect but it does not tell you how much of practice make you perfect enough to rise to greatness. The Gladwell’s formula gives a roadmap that students at high school and college time (10 – 20 years
old) should put 3 hours a day on practicing acquiring the set of skills needed in mastering the craft that wish to become great at.

It seems really interesting but few practical questions come out this study,

Confusion divides the practicing time, Students at schools and colleges are really confused what to do because they get contradictory messages from their teachers, fellow students, parents and
society. The confusion in what to do waste the crucial time needed for particular set of skills that are helpful in realization of the dreams of kids. It is even common to see students at University level being confused and show concerns about the scope of the fields that they are studying. These concerns come from having not a clear guidance from their teachers, counselors and job markets.

Some big universities boast that they teach their students not to seek jobs but create them. Creating jobs means rising from professionalism to rise to leadership level but do really students get the skills needed for creating jobs? These confusions distract majority from concentrating their 10,000 hours of practicing at particular craft.

Master of all is master of none,

The diversity interests and hobbies is another enemy of the practice time for mastering a craft. Especially if one fails to put enough practicing time to become an amateur (the lowest ranking) then he will become just a consumer. If watching TV shows, Movies, Facebook, You Tube and gossiping were crafts we would have a swarm of great viewers, Facebookers, You Tubers and Gossipers….. .

Age factor,

Though there is no question that age of 10 to 20 is the most crucial times because the brain is still developing and one learns fast, analyze and think boldly. However it doesn’t mean that grown up brains can’t acquire greatness by putting 10000 hours of practice at a particular craft. I grew up believing that there is no age limit for learning and acquiring greatness (Of course if one is old enough that don’t have the needed 10,000 hours then it is a real limit). As
acquiring greatness is individualistic so the evidences for arguments is also individualistic. Let me share at least one historical case for ages beyond 20. Following is two paragraphs from page 8th of Book, “Philosophers and religious leaders” by Christian D. Von Dehsen (you can find more cases if you are interested….),

“Akiba ben Joseph was a rabbi whose organization of Jewish oral law and methods of interpreting Torah (Jewish Law) had a profound impact on Jewish history……

Little is known of Akiba’s life. He was born in Southwestern Judah, near Dead Sea, to a poor family and remained uneducated until his wife convinced him to devote his life to the study of Torah. Tradition has it that he began his studies with his son at the age of forty (40). He later studied with leading scholars of his day and eventually formed his own academy….

Akiba developed his own method of biblical interpretation (exegesis) that stressed the importance not only of the letters in the Torah. His method was based on his belief that Torah emanated from God and that every element in it had a definite purpose. He also collected the entire oral law and organized it by subject “Aye Kash Kisi”…….

By c.95-96 Akiba had become known as the greatest scholar of the age and was one of the leaders of the Jewish community…………………………..”

I chose Akiba’s story because I was reading similar stories in my childhood. Because the story is childish so we can’t use it as evidence but I am putting the summary for those who are interested,

“The story is about of proud craftsman that put all his skills to make a masterpiece and decides to present to king of his city. The King really likes the craft but before saying anything, the king is informed that a scholar is visiting the court. The king forgets the craft and the craftsman in the presence of the scholar. The craftsman feels hollow and thinks that he has wasted his life by mastering the craft instead of acquiring knowledge. He was already 40 years
old and it was not possible to start all again so he leaves the city to live his rest of life not doing anything. On his way out of the city he takes refuge to a cave where he accidently sees that dropping water had carved out a hole in rock. This scene really inspires him. “How soft drops of water can cut the hard rock? It is because they keep hitting it. If practice makes soft drops of water can cut a hole in rock then practicing would definitely make me able to master any discipline”

…He think…..He comes back to city and starts learning and becomes a known scholar….”

Passion and Push,

As I mentioned above that confusion and distractions divides our much needed time for practice. What is the solution? The same old formula of nature and nurture still works. Passion is needed to make you stick to your practicing sit for 3 hours a day (Otherwise distractions will steal the practicing time) but sometimes distractions are so big that passion alone can’t save you and you need a push (nurture). Here comes the role of parents, teachers and some helpful peers. I have seen that how powerful are the role of people that you have surround yourself with? If they are passionate, ambitious and determined for improvements and growth, they will push you to practice but if they are lost in fun then they will pull you in, if not fully at least partially………………..

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