10,000 Hours to Performance Mastery

I’m on a Malcolm Gladwell kick as of late. A week ago I got a Google Alert that his new book was coming out in November. Ever since then I’ve been scouring the Internet for lectures and presentations that I can find. There’s something about his message that absolutely appeals to me. The most recent video I watched was called Genius 2012.

Gladwell observes, ‘Modern problems require persistence more than genius, and we ought to value quantity over quality when it comes to intelligence… When you’re dealing with something as complex and as difficult as Fermat’s last theorem, you’re better off with a large number of smart guys than a small number of geniuses.’

The point of interest is that he advocates taking problems slowly – noting that expertise comes with approx. 10,000 hours of training. He thereby identifies the ‘mismatch problem’, which is simply the idea that standards used to judge/predict success in a given field don’t match what it takes to be successful in that field. Below is a transcription from Gladwell’s speech:

“But here we’re saying the critical part of what it means to be good, to succeed at the very specific and critical task at finding colon cancers, has nothing to do with speed of facility – on the contrary, it depends on those who are willing to take their time and willing to very very painstakingly go through something that seems like it can be done in a minute. In other words, that’s a mismatch: we select on a cognitive grounds for people being fast at things, but what we really want is a personality characteristic that allows people to be slow at critical things. Here we have the same thing with Wiles in a certain sense. We have erected in our society a system that selects people for tasks like solving Fermat’s or tackling big modern problems on the basis of their intelligence and the smarter they seem to be, the more we push them forward. But what we’re saying with Wiles is, that the critical issue here was not his intellectual brilliance, it was his stubbornness, it was the notion that he was willing to put everything else aside and spend 10,000 hours on a problem no-one else thought could be solved. So, this is the question: Are we actually selecting people for stubbornness? I don’t think we are.”

A lot can be accomplished in 10,000 hours. It’s been said throughout the psychology community that the application of learning towards a craft…any craft for a period of 10,000 hours gets you closer to mastery in that said craft. Now I’ve been at the “craft” of Performance Engineering formally for 7 years an informally for 10 years. If we assumed a steady 40 hour week schedule for let’s say 48 weeks a year (I’m being generous since I often read about PE on my vacation). That’s 13440 just for the 7 formal years. I’m well past the 10,000 hour mark. So how come I don’t feel a master in PE?

I’ve got a lot more in me to achieve mastery of PE. 10 more years won’t be enough to get me to mastery…


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