The 10,000 Hour Rule: How to Get Around It

Posted May 21, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

You’ve probably heard of the famed 10,000 hour rule, that is takes 10,000 hours to master any skill. Before you start doing the math, we’ll save you some time – that’s about 10 years worth of time. Think about it. If you graduate college with a degree in business, and spend the next 10 years in direct sales, chances are you’re a direct sales expert. If you’ve been playing an instrument or practice a hobby for the same amount of time, you’ve probably gotten as good as you’re going to get at that skill.

If you’re interested in changing careers or learning a new skill, that 10,000 hour rule may seem daunting. But our friends at Work Awesome are giving you a few ways you could cut those 10,000 hours in half or less with “5 Ways to Shortcut the 10,000 Hour Rule.

Two Great Shortcuts from Work Awesome:

Shortcut #1: Deliberate PracticeDeliberate practice is another term coined by Ericsson, and in a nutshell it means that rather than just going through the motions to say you’ve done something that you are quite intentional in doing the work. You focus on it and you pay attention to the process and the outcome (and how can you change the process to improve the outcome). You are definitely not just “getting your reps in.”

In the case of our copywriting novice, she would be using templates, writing out 50 versions of the headline, and making sure she was getting regular constructive feedback.

Shortcut #4: Study the Masters

No matter what anyone tells you, there isn’t a whole lot that hasn’t already been done before. Sure, no one has put quite your spin on it, but learn from the best and don’t reinvent the wheel.

The foundational principles are the foundational principles – right now we’re just iterating off of what the greats did generations before us.

By reading about and studying the greats – both their successes and their failures – you can accelerate your learning curve by not having to go down a path they have already gone.

3 Other Ways to Circumvent the Rule:

  1. Partner with someone who did the hard work. Now, we’re not recommending you ride the coattails of a more hardworking person in your field. We’re simply recommending getting a mentor and learning from his or her experience. That way, when you have questions, you can ask that individual rather than slogging through the “figure it out yourself” process those 10,000 hours utilize.
  2. Take big risks. If you’re learning to cross stitch and you consistently practice with the packages labeled “easy,” you’re never going to become an expert. If you want to avoid the whole 10,000 hours, you’re going to have to take bigger risks earlier in your learning process. Try the “hard” labeled package, go for the big payoff, and you might just succeed. If you fail, at least you’ve learned a big lesson.
  3. Focus. It takes 10,000 hours to learn something because you’re doing a lot of other things in between those 10,000 hours. If you can, take time out to focus entirely on the skill or task you want to learn for a month or two at a time. If you want to learn French, can you take the summer off to go to France (dreaming, right, but hey, it’s an idea)? If you want to change industries or careers, perhaps you’re going to need to leave your current job and try a certificate program or internship to get into the new field.

Whatever the case, 10,000 hours is a long time, but it can be worth it. Take these shortcuts not to avoid the 10,000 hours, but to make it more effective!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."