Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson has studied elite performers in music, chess and sport for decades, and he says the main distinguishing characteristic of experts is the amount of deliberate practice they’ve invested – typically over 10,000 hours.
This is painstaking practice performed for the sole purpose of improving one’s skill level. Best-selling authors like Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Matthew Syed and others, have taken Ericsson’s results and distilled them into the uplifting message that genius is grounded almost entirely in hard work.
But now a team led by David Hambrick have published a forceful challenge to the 10,000 myth. “We found that deliberate practice does not account for all, nearly all, or even most variance in [elite music or chess] performance,” they write.