The “10000 hours of practice” rule under fire


Thank you Renata for your comment at theDesignSketchbook Facebook page.
It helped me to clarify even more my point of view.


In the article about “I have been really bad at drawing since my childhood. How do I get started?”  I said that “Practice Practice Practice” is overrated. My friend artist, Renata*  kindly reminded me the existence of the popular “10000 hours of practice” rule from Malcolm Gladwell.
See next, why I do not believe in his method.


The “10000 hours of practice” rule under fire


10000 hours rule

Malcolm Gladwell claimed that you need to practice 10000 hours a discipline to master it. According to him, this is how the Beatles and Bill Gates achieved greatness.
However, I’ve just discovered that this rule has been recently under fire, destroyed by new studies. 

Even if I disagree with Malcolm Gladwell’s, his talk really make sense, and made me think twice. He talks about 10000 hours of “Deliberate practice”: which is a highly structured activity, with the explicit goal to improve performance. He even add that : it is not work and it is not play. Those activities don’t count toward the 10,000 hours. Work is where we exercise the skills we already have.

But to me, it appears so “passé” such as “Study well at school and you’ll get a great job”.


What is mainly lacking in that rule is: engagement. Engaged people will learn so much faster than anyone else. They won’t need that amount of time to do great.
Let’s say that you are not engaged, not passionate at learning drawings and you still study drawings steadily (as well as we could study math very well without much liking it) and succeed to apply your knowledge. Your drawings might be perfect, but tasteless – Full of techniques. We might congratulate your technique, but not your creativity. Yourself may even end to get bored of it.

Source: Forbes – David Burkus, Are you wasting your 10000 hours?

Please, take your time at learning techniques. You don’t have to worry about 10, 20, 10000 or more hours of practice. This choice is about how long yourself want to dedicate at practicing. A designer may have to challenge himself in a shorter time. Soon or later, he will draw for clients. An amateur of arts will enjoy the feeling of peace when he paints with watercolors. Longer is the process, better it is. This learning journey belong to you. Not Malcolm Gladwell.  Winking smile
Just do whatever you need to do and enjoy creating along the way ! 

quote-robin-williams-madness-given-fidmThis morning, this quote from Robin Williams made me smile. It’s actually so wised.

To me, being designer, artist is of course about mastering techniques. But the most important is that extra creativity, touch of madness which make us feel alive.

This is what will make your creation unique and unexpected.

Draw with technique and love. You’ll make that spark of madness a skill !
Let me know your opinion, and let’s discuss about it.

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About The Author


If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my career, I believe that they can also help you to learn, and help you with your projects. Whether Design is a job or a hobby it doesn’t matter, so long as you do what is important to you.

1 Comment

  • renata

    Reply Reply October 2, 2014

    Mmmm what to say?
    For first you are right!
    You are also right!
    To be able to work 10000 h you need a lot of “Engagement”.
    For me personally, I have a lot of “engagement” but I’m too old to be able to do the 10000 hours, you have to be young like Mozart…

    I will come back later on with more toughts about this subjet 😉

    Thank you for your post!

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