So, you want to be an expert.
You found something that interests you and you want to get better at it. Maybe you want to make money at it (or more money), write a book about it, or use it to help others in some way. Maybe you want to develop a skill that compliments your life and makes it better. It could just be that you simply love doing it.
Whatever the case, you want to learn more – much more than the average person.
Being an expert means just that. You’re the go-to for this one thing. You have the answers. You know the “how” behind it. You’ve been there, done that, wrote the book on it, and so on.
So, how do you become that expert?
In this Foundational Series to becoming an expert, we’ll start with the most basic principle.
There’s a well known principle in the world of expertise. It’s called the “10,000 hour rule”. Basically, it says that if you put in 10,000 hours of practice at any skill, you will be an expert. Now, there’s a lot of debate over whether or not that number is an accurate predictor of success. Many say it’s not quite right.
The argument over the rule is more about the application of practice, than it is about the time required. 10,000 hours may not be an exact number for every field, but the one thing on which everyone can agree is that becoming an expert at something requires a lot of time.
To be clear, it’s not just spending a lot of time doing something, aka practice. It must be intentional. It must be “deliberate practice”.
Deliberate practice happens when you are constantly pushing yourself past your comfort zone, applying training developed by experts (people better than you), and receiving feedback to work on weaknesses.
It means you are intentionally working on areas that you are weak. It means putting in the hours, not just learning, but with a focus on constant improvement.
As long as you keep applying “deliberate practice” to a skill, there is almost no limit to the improvement you can see. The best know this. That’s why NBA stars will still put in the extra practice and training, despite being already considered the best in the world. That’s why world-class writers like Stephen King still write every day to improve.
Look at the people at the top of any field and you’ll see the same thing. Despite being the best, there is still a constant strive to get better. These people aren’t looking to reach some place where they’ve mastered everything possible to learn. They know that point doesn’t exist. They simply know there is always “better”.
Often the only difference between the experts in a field and everyone else is just persistence. There’s a reason it’s called the 10,000 hour rule and not the 500 hour rule. You will definitely see improvement if you put in 500 hours, but to be the best you have to be relentless in your pursuit of improvement long after the excitement fades.
The other side of that coin is this: 10,000 hours is just a number. It doesn’t guarantee a spot at the top of your field. Many of the people we follow and admire – those considered “the best” – have put in far more than 10,000 hours. For instance, “Pianists who win international piano competitions tend to do so when they’re around thirty years old, and thus they’ve probably put in about 20,000 to 25,000 hours of practice by then; ten thousand hours is only halfway down that path.” (source)
Simply put, there’s a big difference in the amount of time it takes to become a.) really good, b.) a master, or c.) the best in the world.
If you want to be an expert, you have to put in the time. Deliberate practice, and lots of it, will bring your closer to reaching the peak of your field.