Purposeful Practice leads to Mastery – The 10,000hr Rule
A few years ago I read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers. The book details how great performers in any domain are created – through 10,000hrs of deliberate practice, not through innate talent. From chess Grandmasters to Tiger Woods to tech industry genius Bill Gates; they all put in 10,000 hours or more of devoted practice to become the world’s best. An important message to come through the book is that there is no such thing as an overnight success.
I believe that some people will be more akin to mastering certain skills; someone who comes into CrossFit with a good aerobic capacity and base strength will pick up skills quicker and progress in the sport much faster but others may take longer than 10,000 hours. In the first 1000 hours may be abysmal and result in you falling on your face (or a barbell falling on your face) more than a few times. That’s normal, but as you progress two things happen: (1.) your standard of what qualifies as “deliberate practice” changes, and (2.) your rate of improvement goes down. In other words, the quality of your practice has to be the same or better than before (more weight on the bar, better movement control, etc.) and you will not make the same ‘leaps and bounds’ forward as you initially did (google: law of diminishing returns); this is also normal.
Over time as you accrue more and more hours of practice you start to break away from the hundreds and thousands of people who dabble in this skill and you reach a higher level of competency. Once at this stage, you will need more focus, more hours or practice, and a higher standard to aim for – this is where competition comes in. Sometimes this feels like you’re back at the beginning and falling on your face again but it’s all totally normal. The ones who can use all of these moments to practice and improve while continuing to hone their craft away from the spotlight will be the ones who can reach levels of mastery few people in the world ever do.
Since the book was released, some experts have come out to dispute the rule saying that practice is not the only determinant. Well, that may be true but I’ve always liked to think that if I devoted 10,000hrs to the mastery of a skill in any given field, even if I fall short at least I know I really did try. Given that the average person who could devote only 2-3 a day maximum to learning and mastering a new skill would take at least 9 years to accumulate enough purposeful practice to reach their full potential it really requires you to have a real passion for what you’re doing.
The brutally honest truth is that some people either lack that passion or they’re not willing to give up that much time.
I personally believe in the 10,000hr rule; given that I walked into CrossFit with thousands of hours of practice, having played sports my entire life and joining a gym at 15 years old, I had a pretty good headstart. But for all the training I had done I still came into CrossFit with no formal Gymnastics or Olympic Weightlifting experience. Having the right attitude and understanding of what it really takes to progress all comes back to this simple rule. It’s because of this that I am able to step back and look at the big picture when it feels like the ‘PR well’ has run dry or I’m not getting any better. It’s all part of a long process that takes thousands of hours of practice and years of hard work to come to fruition. The ones who fail are the ones who don’t see this and give up.
Coach Luke Fiso.