Anders Ericcson was a cognitive psychologist who created the concept that became the basis for Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” and the notion of “The 10,000 Hour Rule.” The idea is that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything.
What is missing from what Gladwell popularized is that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert. Ericcson believed it was important to have a way of measuring the progress as well as someone evaluating your progress.
After all, using an example from golf, a player could get on the golf course and play every day for 10 years and not learn anything from it. All that would happen to them is they would bake in the same bad habits year after year after year making them know better a player than they were when they started.
That’s where most people are. They learn how to do something and rarely or never try to improve. If they try to improve, they do it through trial and error with no input from the outside.
As someone who is not an expert at what they want to achieve, trial and error makes it more difficult. After all, you know where you are and know where you want to get to but not necessarily how to get there.
Having a coach or a mentor, having an expert to work with in this area that you want to improve in helps to make the change more achievable and, if they do a good job, it will be measurable for you as to how you improved.
For example, when I coach people about interviewing, they come to me having failed repeatedly. I’ll teach them a framework for how to do it well, making it clear that I can’t help them be better at what they do. That’s their responsibility. We’ll practice what I teach. I’ll correct them. I’ll send a recording to them afterward for them to review. We’ll get their performance well-tuned.
They will then do an interview and I will ask them to rate their confidence in their performance. Then they will receive a result from the employer. Are they getting invited back for second interviews? If not, where and how did they fail. Did they get invited back for a third interview or a final interview? What result did they get both in terms of self-confidence and feedback? There are nuances to the evaluation, of course, but it’s all measurable.
Being a professional doesn’t just mean results that you are paid for but the desire to improve over where you are today. Improvement doesn’t just simply come from time and effort. It comes from experimentation and correction measured in several different ways.
When you look at feedback, there is no easier place to observe feedback than in sports. Did your team win? What was your part in the win? Did you outscore the player or players opposite you? How well did you defend? In baseball, it might be batting average as a designated hitter. For other positions, it might be VORP (value over replacement player. A replacement player is defined as being an average fielder in a below-average hitter).
However you measure your success or improvement, you need to have a way of determining your progress against the result.
10,000 hours is the launch point but it is really 10,000 hours of deliberate practice under the tutelage of an expert that makes the difference
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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