Practice makes perfect: The 10,000 rule

The national Coronavirus lockdown, like any other extended sabbatical whether planned or unplanned, can be a great opportunity to take up a new hobby or fine tune an existing one. Instagrammers and over achievers on all social media platforms are rubbing are noses in it about how they are mastering the mandolin, brushing up on their Russian, or perfecting their Capoeira. But how much practice really makes perfect? And more importantly – can you actually be arsed?

Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian journalist and author of a whole heap social psychology works, said in his 2008 book Outliers that talent alone wasn’t the only prerequisite for becoming top of your game at something. The secret ingredient was, he said, 10,000 hours of practising. Now, some other experts have disputed this, and some studies here and there suggest that perhaps it works best for pastimes like music and sport. It’s worth having a read of the book yourself, and see what you make of some of his other findings about what really makes people successful. And in particular, how would 10,000 hours of practise in a particular field change your life?

Let’s look at local legends The Beatles and how they went from an amateur teenage skiffle group from suburban Liverpool to the world famous super stars who were, in their words, “bigger than Jesus”. With the 10,000 Hour Rule in mind, what set the Fab Four apart from other similar acts and did practice really make perfect? Let’s have a look at how much graft they put in, over a relatively short period of time:

  • In 1957 John Lennon formed his first group, The Quarrymen, soon to be joined by a young Paul McCartney and followed by many more personnel and name changes as well as tours across Scotland and native Merseyside.
  • By 1960, their first trip to Hamburg took place and they spent 48 days performing, often long multiple sets, helping them to perfect their techniques and style. It was their time in Hamburg that is credited with setting them apart from many other contemporary Merseybeat groups. They just played live so much.
  • Back in Britain, The Beatles began the first lunchtime sessions at Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club and spent a great deal of 1961 honing their skills to local audiences once again until their second stint in Hamburg, this time racking up an incredible 92 performances at the Top Ten Club.
  • On their return to Liverpool, whilst playing local venues, the group attract the interest of local music industry entrepreneur and businessman Brian Epstein who in 1962 became The Beatles’ manager and they return to Germany. This time they clock up 48 dates at the Star Club between April-June 1962.
  • They released their debut single later that year and by 1964 were the biggest band in the world, with with studio albums, live performances, television appearances, feature films, an international fan base and merchandise deals all under their belts.
  • They would remain influential and popular for the remainder of their time together as a band, having set themselves apart from other British acts early on in their career.

Think about it. In a few years, they went from this:

To this:

Selling over 800 million albums across the globe, The Beatles are the best selling band in musical history to date. They owe much of their success to the part that their many tour dates – especially in Hamburg – played in contributing to their 10,000 hours of practice. 

What could you achieve with that much time and dedication? And even if you haven’t got a spare 10,000 hours on your hands, do you think that ‘practice makes perfect’ rings true for you?

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