Recently I had a chance to read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He is the author of some other well known books including the Tipping Point and Blink. Outliers has done well and was on the NY Times best-selling list for quite some time. I personally enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
What caught my attention and the focus of my article this week is a chapter in his book called “10,000-Hour Rule.” Research and studies have indicated that there is a magic number when it comes to somebody becoming a world class expert in any area. Simply stated there are a minimum number of hours of practice for someone to become a true expert: ten thousand.
“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert – in anything. In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.”1
10,000 hours is an enormous amount of time and virtually impossible to achieve on your own by the time you are a young adult. To put that number into perspective you would need to practice 40 hours a week for almost five years straight before reaching it. One thing we should take from this is that when you see a person rise to the level of world class excellence you should know and understand that talent was part of the success but so was a lot of hard work.
As I thought about the magic number I remembered another similar number that was part of a shocking statistic. The average North American youth watches approximately 1,500+ hours of TV / video games each year. When you take out the calculator and start to play with the numbers you realized that between the ages of 10 and 18 they will have spent approximately 12,000 hours of watching TV and/or playing video games. 2000 more than what researches say it takes for someone to achieve the level of world class excellence. It is scary to think how much the world has lost over the years.
My point is not to encourage parents to push their child to work 10,000 hours in some area or talent but that the TV / video games has the potential to rob us of so much. Think of all that our children could accomplish if those 12,000 hours of TV watching was turned towards other more important and enduring endeavours. If you are interested in learning more about the effects of TV and video games on children visit the website listed below. The site lists a number of excellent tips for teaching your children good media habits.
Have a great (TV free) weekend.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. Boston: Little Brown & Company, 2008.