10,000 hours Myth of Mastery


Mozart was considered a child prodigy; an absolute genius. What some don’t consider is that Wolfgang began playing piano when he was just 4 years old. His father was a piano teacher and he began his daily rigors at a very tender young age.

Every day for ten years he practiced and toiled. Hour upon hour each day while most his age played games and did whatever children did in his day.

Not Mozart.

Mozart was about his craft. Developing and honing his skills. Endlessly toiling at the keyboard.

At 14 he was labeled a child prodigy. What many don’t know, and never will, is that it took him 10 full years to “arrive.”

Great artist Alexandra Nichita, her mother told me stories about how they would come into a room in their home, and find it a complete mess. Alexandra was sitting in the middle of a room, with paint all over the furniture and walls, working at her craft. All the while she listened incessantly to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and many other classical giants.

I asked, “What did you do?”

(Imagining how particular I am with my home and environment, I was thinking I would have gone nuts! One of the many reasons I don’t have kids I suppose.)

Her mother replied, “We knew that she was different, talented, and unique… so we just put drop cloths on the furniture and let her do her thing.” She continued, “We could never get her to listen to anything other than classical music even at a very young age.”

Attempt to get the average child to listen to Baroque music and see how far you get.

Good luck!

Talent and unique gifts were present with Mozart, and Nichita that’s a fact. But it’s more than just talent, I promise you that.

More on this later.

By the time I get to know Alexandra well, she was already approximately 13 years old, and touted a child prodigy—the reincarnation of Picasso some said (which by the way I asked her about and she didn’t like). Her originals were already going for tens of thousands of dollars at minimum. Much more than that today.

So we’ve alluded to the fact many times that it takes a large amount time and work to achieve mastery.

Tiger Woods began playing golf when he was 2 years old. He was the youngest player to ever win the U.S. Masters in 1997 at the tender age of 21. Do the math. It was nineteen years later and he was touted as a miracle. Sound familiar?

I wonder if he listened to Mozart?

Anders Ericsson has some of the most well-known research in the study of ultimate human performance; and what it takes to achieve a level of mastery. Bottom line, according to his study, it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours.

Malcom Gladwell in his most famous book, Outliers did mentioned it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. How does Gladwell arrive at this conclusion? And, if the conclusion is true, how can we leverage this idea to achieve greatness in our professions?

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. This article will review a few examples from Gladwell’s research, and conclude with some thoughts for moving forward.

According to Gladwell, Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped out of college to form the company in 1975. It’s that simple: Drop out of college, start a company, and become a billionaire, right? Wrong.


Further study reveals that Gates and Allen had thousands of hours of programming practice prior to founding Microsoft. First, the two co-founders met at Lakeside, an elite private school in the Seattle area. The school raised three thousand dollars to purchase a computer terminal for the school’s computer club in 1968.

A computer terminal at a university was rare in 1968. Gates had access to a terminal in eighth grade. Gates and Allen quickly became addicted to programming.

The Gates family lived near the University of Washington. As a teenager, Gates fed his programming addiction by sneaking out of his parents’ home after bedtime to use the University’s computer. Gates and Allen acquired their 10,000 hours through this and other clever teenage schemes. When the time came to launch Microsoft in 1975, the two were ready.

But not just any 10,000 hours mind you. Ten thousand hours of what he calls “deliberate practice.” We’ve discussed this previously, but just as a reminder, deliberate practice is practicing with the sole focus of consistent improvement.

I don't follow deliberately 10,000 hours of such rule but one thing in common between Woods, Nichita, Mozart, Gates & me, we shared the myth of Mastery of 10 Years. By this year November it will be my 10th Years Anniversary involvement of coaching in this industry.

I still remembered that back then, it was really tough to explain to anyone about what I do for a living. Even worst, whenever I opened my mouth I started with all kinds of questions that seems alien to most people out there. I was struggling, I was disheartening, I was consistently being demotivated, I was upset, I was and am still being criticized of what I'm doing for no good, I was extremely discouraged....but I keep doing the same thing knowing it might not turn up well.

Meanwhile, I did a lot of coaching sessions, I mean truly a lot till I lost count how many sessions I have done. Majority of the time I do it in groups more than individuals. I discovered the impact on groups were far more significant. I then began run most of my sessions in groups inside the organization that I stayed with. As to date, I have coached more than (5000 people) 250 groups sessions of all staffs be it junior, middle to senior managers for the past 10 years. I facilitated more than 100 groups sessions for the senior leaders during my change management engagements.

Till today not many still believed what I do today is meant for good....

In between the period, I realized and discovered many of our new trained coaches were handicapped once they are out to the real world. Most if not all were not good in "market" or "sell" themselves. I then went on to learn from the market leaders in our industry how to help these folks but not restricted to coaches only. I spend more than 4 and half years refining my work in developing a "system" to help these newbies. I understood, I'm aware, I felt the pain, I hear them & I know them well they are actually somewhat struggling. Do I want to be famous and popular by doing it? I could tell you straight, if I were want to be a celebrity status in my field, I won't not want to do it...and I'm pretty sure I won't bother putting these efforts.

Simply because, I care, I always have compassion thoughts for these people, that some day they don't have to go through the hell that I have been through. In another words, I'd like to see people get success ahead and it is very disturbing to me that they are still struggling without any guidance.

At this juncture, will I stop since I have acquired all the 10,000 hours necessity of expertise? Honestly, I still don't feel I have acquired it. Whenever I was being put on stage to perform a demonstration of coaching, I get lot's of feedback saying, "How do you know when to ask that kind of questions?" "This is crazy, how do you know that is not her goal"? "What makes you think when would be appropriate time to ask and support at the same time?" and many more......

They were so amazed and dazzled of how I did it at that point of time.

Well if they knew what I have gone through all those struggling moments, ups & downs they probably would not feel the same then.

To another 10,000 hours, only god knows when would it be....I'll be keep doing it as long I live life fully.

Comments are closed.