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10,000 Hours?

post #1 of 106
Thread Starter 
I've been reading several reviews of a new book that's just been published. It's a book by Malcom Gladwell and the title is "Outliers". The basic idea is that Gladwell looks at people who are so gifted at a variety of different endeavors (sports, science, music, medicine; practically any vocation or profession) that their talents truly stand out. They are "Outliers" from the rest of us in the bell curve.

One of the arguments Gladwell makes is that one common thread shows up in the background of all of the outliers he's studied: they have amassed at least 10,000 hours of practice in their chosen field.

Here's an exerpt that helps explain (I added the bolding to help with my questions below):

This idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

"In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals," writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, "this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years... No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

I find that fascinating. Considering the skills involved with skiing, does that fit with your own experience? When we argue back and forth about ski teaching and technique, do we take this into account?

Many who are involved in ski instruction will argue that skiing without instruction reinforces and actually "practices" what might be defined as "bad" technique. Despite that, I think most of us can name a fair number of skiers who have evolved into very good skiers but have never taken a lesson. Were they just naturally gifted, or did they eventually rack up enough miles (10,000 hours) to learn the most efficient ways to turn a pair of skis?

If you had PERFECT instruction and you were relatively talented physically, would you be able to have world-class skiing expertise in only, say, 5,000 hours? The book would seem to suggest that the answer is "no".

It's an interesting theory.

How many hours do YOU have on skis?
post #2 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
If you had PERFECT instruction and you were relatively talented physically, would you be able to have world-class skiing expertise in only, say, 5,000 hours? The book would seem to suggest that the answer is "no".

It's an interesting theory.

How many hours do YOU have on skis?
Practice is obviously important, but practicing the wrong technique for 10,000 hours only makes you an expert and doing the wrong thing.
post #3 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
It's an interesting theory.

How many hours do YOU have on skis?
It is a very interesting theory. I guess that explains why I take shit so well from my customers.

As for skiing? Not enough.
post #4 of 106
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaos View Post
Practice is obviously important, but practicing the wrong technique for 10,000 hours only makes you an expert and doing the wrong thing.
Did you miss the part of my post about people who've never had a lesson but become very good skiers over time?

You don't believe that physical "trial and error" over multiple repetitions will eventually lead someone to discover effective movements? I believe they do.
post #5 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
Did you miss the part of my post about people who've never had a lesson but become very good skiers over time?

You don't believe that physical "trial and error" over multiple repetitions will eventually lead someone to discover effective movements? I believe they do.
I thought we were talking about "extremely gifted" skiers, not just "good" skiers. Anyway...

You can practice for decades and end up looking pretty good coming down the hill. But excellence in skiing requires precision. A person can analyze themselves and only get so far, but having a person who possesses information on proper technique analyze and give you feedback will insure that your practice is truly beneficial.

That's why we have coaches and instructors.
post #6 of 106
After calculating my lifetime ski hours.........I suck.
post #7 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaos View Post
Practice is obviously important, but practicing the wrong technique for 10,000 hours only makes you an expert and doing the wrong thing.
That's just glib. If you are passionate about something and you perservere, you're eventually going to get good at it. There are people who perservere at shit that they obviously hate--bad marriages, or Richard Nixon running for President come to mind--but that's a whole other boxful of Pandoras. If you love to ski, you mainly just need to log the hours and make the turns to become a good skier.

That fact doesn't diminish the value of a well taught lesson or clinic.
post #8 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaos View Post
I thought we were talking about "extremely gifted" skiers, not just "good" skiers. Anyway...

You can practice for decades and end up looking pretty good coming down the hill. But excellence in skiing requires precision. A person can analyze themselves and only get so far, but having a person who possesses information on proper technique analyze and give you feedback will insure that your practice is truly beneficial.

That's why we have coaches and instructors.

Exactly...way to go Chaos!
post #9 of 106
So EpicSki doesn't count?
post #10 of 106
Bob, I reread the quote. What is not clear is the 10K hours inclusive of lessons/pro training? I don't see that part of it. I don't beleive that anyone will gain total mastry of anything without some kind of natural ability (including natuarl athletism in this case) even those with a passion and desire may not achieve total mastry without the physical or mental capacity.
post #11 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
Did you miss the part of my post about people who've never had a lesson but become very good skiers over time?

You don't believe that physical "trial and error" over multiple repetitions will eventually lead someone to discover effective movements? I believe they do.
Somewhere along the line there has to be trial and error learning. If not, the craft wouldn't evolve. Someone had to be the first master.

The question then becomes if a 10K master teaches you, can you become a master in less time.

If 10,000 hours is the magic number to be a master of a craft, there is probably some statistic that states at 5,000 hours (or so) you're at the top. The next 5,000 would be trying to achieve a very small percentage of improvement.

In skiing, based on an 8 hour day, 10,000 hours is 1,250 days; almost 3 and a half years of skiing everyday with no days off. Even I could learn something on my own in that time. Fairly good chance if I kept screwing up during the first 5K hours, it would finally hit me to not do that anymore and try something different during the next 5K.

I also think that if during the first 5K I sought instruction and coaching, I would have benefitted from someone elses experience and would have advanced at a faster rate and wouldn't be screwing up so long.
post #12 of 106
I have something less than 10,000 hours on skis. Haven't really kept track though.

I think that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I think that coaching and instruction can be very helpful, but can only take you so far. I play guitar and the virtuosos of that instrument who I admire: Clapton, Garcia, Duane Allman, Knopfler, SRV, Gilmour... all have minimal instruction and maximum practice. They developed their skills and styles by listening to what others had done and by practicing guitar for, well, for over 10,000 hours.

Similarly, anyone with some talent who spends that much time skiing is going to become an excellent skier. To become great, like the guitarists mentioned above, they need to have an innate talent for it. Bode Miller is one who has had coaching and has put in many hours of practice - he has learned that coaching can only take him so far and to trust his own instincts and abilities when it comes to squeezing faster times out of a course.

I consider myself a good skier. I don't think I have the inherent talent to become aski porn star or a world cupper no matter how many hours I get in or how much coaching I have. I learned like my guitar virtuosos did, by watching others and trying things out on my own. If I had coaching would I be a better skier? Yes. If I had 10,000 hours in would I be a better skier? Yes. But if a skier speds 10,000 hours practicing and does not become an excellent skier then maybe their talents do not lie in that direction and they should, perhaps, take up snow boarding.
post #13 of 106
Bob, I think this could prove to be one of the most interesting discussions here in a while.

Here's what I think. While good coaching and instruction would enable a person to more readily be aware of the correct technique, form, tactic, etc, that awareness certainly doesn't enable them to immediately adopt it, or more importantly internalize it to the point where they "own" it. That comes with practice.

I also think that given a large amount of time as is being discussed, a person can "discover" many techniques and skills on their own simply by trying different things, watching others...trial and error. Sometimes tha tmight take longer than having an instructor point it out...but the internalization might be stronger if you learn it on your own too.

How many people who are elite at something do that something completely textbook? Probably very few. They take the textbook and then go beyond it through intense practice, customizing the base skills as they need to.

10k hours. I need to tell my wife this.
post #14 of 106
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaos View Post
I thought we were talking about "extremely gifted" skiers, not just "good" skiers. Anyway...

You can practice for decades and end up looking pretty good coming down the hill. But excellence in skiing requires precision. A person can analyze themselves and only get so far, but having a person who possesses information on proper technique analyze and give you feedback will insure that your practice is truly beneficial.

That's why we have coaches and instructors.
I'm actually talking about "expert" skiers, which in my definition of the term is a very, very small subset of overall skiers.

I don't argue at all that coaches and instructors aren't important in helping us find the right path quicker or to keep from going down the wrong path for too long a time. But I also think that observation, mimicry, and trial and error can all result in learning to ski extremely well over time.

I just see too many "expert" skiers here at Jackson Hole who haven't had a single lesson in the ten or twenty (or more) years that I've known them.
post #15 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post

I just see too many "expert" skiers here at Jackson Hole who haven't had a single lesson in the ten or twenty (or more) years that I've known them.
They made not have paid for an official lesson, but I guarantee you they've received plenty of instruction and advice from others throughout their years of skiing.
post #16 of 106
Bob, btw, I think the correct term is parollee. Not Paroller.
post #17 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
I have something less than 10,000 hours on skis. Haven't really kept track though.

I think that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I think that coaching and instruction can be very helpful, but can only take you so far. I play guitar and the virtuosos of that instrument who I admire: Clapton, Garcia, Duane Allman, Knopfler, SRV, Gilmour... all have minimal instruction and maximum practice. They developed their skills and styles by listening to what others had done and by practicing guitar for, well, for over 10,000 hours.

Similarly, anyone with some talent who spends that much time skiing is going to become an excellent skier. To become great, like the guitarists mentioned above, they need to have an innate talent for it. Bode Miller is one who has had coaching and has put in many hours of practice - he has learned that coaching can only take him so far and to trust his own instincts and abilities when it comes to squeezing faster times out of a course.

I consider myself a good skier. I don't think I have the inherent talent to become aski porn star or a world cupper no matter how many hours I get in or how much coaching I have. I learned like my guitar virtuosos did, by watching others and trying things out on my own. If I had coaching would I be a better skier? Yes. If I had 10,000 hours in would I be a better skier? Yes. But if a skier speds 10,000 hours practicing and does not become an excellent skier then maybe their talents do not lie in that direction and they should, perhaps, take up snow boarding.

I'm convinced that the one thing that you cannot learn from coaching or structured learning of any sort is how to become a master student. And becoming a master student (thank you, Dave Ellis) is, in my mind, the first step towards excellence.

In skiing, master studentism (?!) is the sort of skill that you acquire after spending, say, a number of highly frustrating days in flat light on hardpacked, irregular bumps, not finding any sort of rythmn, getting more frustrated every run; or on a bluebird powder day, knowing that this is supposed to be as good as it gets, but not actually knowing how to ski it well enough to enjoy it. You eventually reach that point where you stop fighting it, and you stop beating yourself up for not knowing how to do it. And that's real progress.

Whatever form it takes for you -- whether you take your master-student skills into a ski school program and get some focused, skilled feedback from a skier you respect, whether you decide to become a student of the trial-and-error school of hard knocks and just take the crappy bump run one turn at a time, or just be happy to make one smooth powder turn before augering in -- that's when the learning starts. I think for some of us, you can only get to that point of internal surrender after many hours of making all the mistakes that can possibly be made.

I'm sure there are other paths to progress, but I don't know them.
post #18 of 106
Bob Peters: But I also think that observation, mimicry, and trial and error can all result in learning to ski extremely well over time.

As a person who learned on his own and had very few formal lessons (attended 3 ESAs) I would agree with this. But with only about 800 hours of skiing behind me, I am, at best, competent on skis (and far from expert).
post #19 of 106
I equate 10,000 hours to 2000 ski days.

Factoring in lunch, lift rides, liftlines etc in an 8-4 day, about 5 hours actual ski time per day is pretty much the most you'll get which is plenty if you're pushing yourself.

I think a naturally gifted ,hard working dedicated athlete could get to the very top in much less time...maybe half.

Duane Allman could really play
post #20 of 106
I think this needs to be interpreted in the context of job expertise (with an extension to skiing in a moment). If I get a freshout engineer in my group and assign him to a project, he can usually ramp up in 6 months (1040 hours) and be self-managed and a key contributor to project work within a year (2080 hours) or two (4160 hours). If you let the guy work on the same thing (not always possible) he would be a recognized expert in 4-5 years, which gets us to the magic 10K hours number. It matches my experience in the world of research.

Now, how does this extend to skiing? Well notice that I said nothing about the engineer's training above -- it's assumed that he comes to me with some requisite level of background "capability" in the field (typically an MS degree in engineering). In the context of skiing, I think this translates to someone who possesses the combination of physical and mental skills required to become a good skier. From that baseline level, it's just a matter of immersing the person into the situation and letting them accrue expertise. Just as training/education can accelerate this in the context of a job, so can lessons in the context of skiing. I know several good researchers who leapfrogged their development cycle simply by hitting grad school and doing a solid thesis (=force feeding of expertise). I also know skiers who got the right lesson from the right person and made major improvements in a short amount of time.
post #21 of 106
In general I agree that Outlier type greatness comes from combination of much practice and great natural talent. I also think that somebody like the golfer Jim Furyk can still be an Outlier with enough practice and talent despite imperfect mechanics. I'm thinking you have to be careful about putting a precise number on the required practice hours though especially in fields of endeavor where natural talent can trump practiced skills. I think there are athletes (and others, including musicians) who have achieved world class distinction without 10k or even 5k hours of practice; perhaps tennis stars, runners, actually many sports where a 20 year old can be near the best in the world. 20 year old Andrew Wheating of University of Oregon represented the US in the 2008 Olympic 800 meter run despite only turning seriously to Track in his senior year of High School: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...layden.column/

Can anyone think of an Olympic caliber skier who had very little background in the sport?
post #22 of 106
So if one were to make it a carrer, dedicate 8 hrs a day to the cause, mastery could be achieved within 3.5years....man I better get to skiing, I could still be world's best before 40!
post #23 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richie-Rich View Post
So if one were to make it a carrer, dedicate 8 hrs a day to the cause, mastery could be achieved within 3.5years....man I better get to skiing, I could still be world's best before 40!
sorry to inform you but that title has already been claimed by Chaos
post #24 of 106
I think natural talent & practice have a much greater influence on reaching the highest levels in a chosen activity than formal instruction or coaching. I agree that observation, mimicry, and trial and error are often enough to become an expert. The guitarist example is a good one. Some of the best just pick up the instrument & keep hammering away until it works, but I think their brains are wired differently. The same could be said for skiing. 10,000 hours for one may not achieve the same results as 10,000 hours for another. With coaching & instruction, the results will probably be more similar, & achieved at a faster rate.

At some point, how the brain interprets & assimilates the external stimuli is what will have the most profound effect on the outcome.

JF
post #25 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post
I think natural talent & practice have a much greater influence on reaching the highest levels in a chosen activity than formal instruction or coaching. I agree that observation, mimicry, and trial and error are often enough to become an expert...

JF
It takes a blend of natural talent, athleticism, coaching and instruction, self-discovery, self-discipline, focus, tactics, and of course lots of practice to become an expert skier. There is no 'one' greater influence.
post #26 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post
The same could be said for skiing. 10,000 hours for one may not achieve the same results as 10,000 hours for another. With coaching & instruction, the results will probably be more similar, & achieved at a faster rate.
4ster - I'd agree with that. I think the point Bob was bringing up...is that, according to this research, it takes 10k hours of training/practice to reach an elite level. Of course there is no guarantee that 10k hours of practice/training will get you there...but that's the hurdle, even if you have inherent talent/gifts.

I find it pretty amazing actually, especially since I have two little girls - 8 and 9 - who I'd love to see find something they are passionate about that leads them to a rich and fulfilling life. Not that I wa nt to be a parent to push/pigeonhole them, but it's interesting to know that the potential is there for them to reach a very high level of achievement if they put their minds to it (assuming they have some basic level of talent and capability to begin with).
post #27 of 106
My rough calculation is that I've got between 6,000 and 8,000 hours skiing so far. At my current rate I should be ready for the world cup on my 65th birthday.
post #28 of 106
Harry - looking forward to it!

This isn't skiing, but pretty amazing for a five year old:

post #29 of 106
I read this study a few years ago prior to it's publication in book form. I certainly agree with the premise. A perfect example of this theory is the Canadian golfer Moe Norman. He never had a lesson and, with his "unconventional" swing, it's apparent he didn't just copy others. Rather, by trial and error he found a swing that worked for him. It's said that he hit balls until his hands were raw looking for the right swing. He is recognized by golf historians as one of the greatest ball-strikers ever. Did he possess some unique physical skills? Probably, but had he not, he likely would have pursued something else.
post #30 of 106
I know for one that I became good at skiing after spending over 20 hours a week for over a decade practicing Ice Hockey. I know I've touched upon it as well as others but being a highly proficient skater made me a good skier out of the box.
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