Wednesday, July 16, 2008

10,000 hours of deliberate practice

Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point and blink) is working on genius.  You can listen to him at www.newyorker.com/online/video/conference/2007/gladwell.  

He reports on research on mastery that says it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master anything from sports to music to mathematics.  Mastery takes 10,000 hours of paying attention while you practice.  It is not a matter of brilliance or talent or luck.  It is a matter of paying attention to a particular problem or skillset for quite a long time.

So why do our universities offer masters degrees that take only one or two years after a bachelor's degree?  On the one hand, the fifth year of study would give one 10,000 hours of university study (mastering the art of being a student!).  On the other hand, that one year of study offers the skills to do the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.  It does not make you a master: it puts you on the path to mastery.

I will be offering a master's level course in NLP next month.  On the one hand, this is nonsense. No one masters NLP in a classroom.  The difference between a course of 60 or 90 hours and a course of 600 hours is trivial when we understand that mastery requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.  The purpose of a master's course is not to master the subject.

The purpose of a master's level course is to provide the additional tools necessary to structure 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.  It is to provide the maps and pack the bags for a long climb up winding roads, knowing that there is no guarantee that the ground will not shift and that 10,000 hours might be just the beginning of a longer climb.

NLP is a way of thinking.  If your way of thinking will not sustain you for at least 10,000 hours, what are you going to do with the next ten or twenty or fifty years?

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