K. Anders Ericsson’s research doesn’t prove that to become an expert at anything you need only do that thing for 10,000 hours. It doesn’t suggest anything of the sort. In fact, one of my favorite quotes from Ericsson is “Just because you’ve been walking for 55 years doesn’t mean you’re getting better at it.” And just because you’ve been selling for as many years doesn’t mean you’re getting better either.
Ericsson’s 10,000 hour rule says that you need to do what he calls “deliberate practice” for all of those hours. Deliberate practice is very different from mindlessly repeating the same activity over and over. Instead, you focus intently on improving your form, your competency, dialing in your performance. It’s this intense level of practice that allows the master to breakthrough the plateaus where amateurs get stuck.
Ericsson suggest that some masters have to take a nap after an hour of deliberate practice. It’s that taxing to the system.
This is why the 10,000 rules doesn’t work. It’s not because you haven’t done something for 10,000 hours. It’s because you haven’t been engaged in deliberate practice for all of those hours. But fortunately, you don’t have to wait to accumulate all of those hours to improve your competency.
You can improve little by little, day by day, by giving your focus over to the one sales call that you are going to make. You can deliberately practice listening for 20 minutes when you sit down with your client, your team, or your spouse. You can deliberately practice writing for 20 minutes a day and, over time, you will become a better writer (even if you are not Hemingway).
It never hurts to go for first chair. Mastery is worth pursuing. But mastery isn’t found in the 10,000 hours. It’s found in the deliberate practice. You get better when you focus on getting better. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice does.