“Practise until you can’t miss”

 “Practise until you can’t miss”

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success highlighted a phenomenon that many of you may have heard of, the “10,000 Hour Rule”. The 10,000 Hour Rule is the estimated time it takes to be world class with deliberate practice, based on a study by Dr K. Anders Ericsson. Gladwell outlines the time required to become great and uses well known examples:

  • Bill Gates, who was able to start coding as a teen since he attended a progressive Seattle high school.
  • the Beatles, who played eight-hour gigs in German clubs long before they invaded America.

In his article, How Musicians Should Spend Their 10,000 Hours, Christopher Sutton highlights the four areas musicians should practise deliberately, in achieving success:

  1. You need to practise carefully.

That means spending your time on the right things and practising in the right way. This was a significant point Gladwell was making, and the idea of deliberate practice has been studied and identified as the key to making fast progress in learning new skills.

  1. “Talent” is mostly a myth.

The true greats have put in the time. While the 10,000 hour number can seem intimidating, there’s also something deeply reassuring about knowing that becoming great really is just a matter of hard (and smart) work. On the days when you’re feeling under-motivated or wondering if you really have what it takes, it helps to remember that the most important thing is just to keep putting in those hours in a deliberate way and following your plan.

  1. It’s going to be a long journey.

It just sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Ten thousand isn’t a number we use every day. It works out to about four to five years of practising six hours every day, or a decade of more realistic practice hours. And even if you can become great long before that “world class” mark of 10,000 hours, in a world of quick fixes and everybody wanting shortcuts, it’s good to be reminded that things which are worthwhile in life take time. In fact, that’s what the word “worthwhile” means.

  1. You’ll get there.

The elegant conclusion which comes out naturally from the previous two points is this: put in the time and spend it wisely, and you will reach your goal. You don’t need to rely on luck, or talent, or a gift from the gods. The 10,000 Hour Rule reassures us that we can reach even quite incredible goals when we set out to learn any new skill, including becoming more musical.

Similarly, in a sporting context, Mike Gamson, Senior Vice President of Global Solutions at LinkedIn, writes, “What distinguishes the performance of people who are merely good at their job from those who are truly world-class? This difference can often be attributed to the time and energy spent practising the basics. The commitment to practise again, and again, and again, and again long after you feel like you need to continue to practise is the most reliable strategy I know to improve your performance.”

The theory of 10,000 hours or “practise until you can’t miss”, is similar in other contexts, such as:

  • practising a speech until you know it so well that no amount of technical difficulties with your mic or your slides will interrupt your flow and your connection to your audience.
  • practising a pitch for a big opportunity so that you know your material so well that no last-minute change in the meeting dynamic will cause you to stumble.
  • practising telling the story of your life and career so that you can flow effortlessly through your biggest achievements and most profound learnings if you are in the hunt for a new job.

This week, our Spring Concert will highlight ‘the practice’ of our musicians in showcasing their performances at Scotch College. Our students spent hours rehearsing at the Music Camp in their final preparations for the Spring Concert.

I thank Mr Tim Collins, Ms Liv Cher and our Music team for the time and effort taken to ensure the girls are ready for the Spring Concert.



Mrs Gina Peele, Director of Student Programs