There is a popular myth that has developed around the attainment of mastery. First popularized in relation to spurious studies conducted on the time-frame it took classical musicians to achieve the highest grades of their instruments, it posits that an individual must practice as a task for 10,000 hours in order to master it.
It’s easy to see why this simple concept caught on – it’s compelling, memorable, and has the ring of truth to it. If you were to practice at a task for 8 hours a day, every day, it would take you a little under three and a half years to log 10,000 hours providing you never took a day off.
Yet as is so often the case, the reality is more nuanced than this. Recent studies of this phenomenon have roundly debunked the 10,000 hour myth, with one finding that it took musicians anything from between 700 to 16,000 hours in order to master their instruments.
Another study challenged the relative importance of practice, citing other elements, from – research to technique – as equally important factors in determining a musician’s progression. There’s also nothing to say that the rate of development of a skill is equal. Language acquisition, training in athletics or learning to drive, for example, are all vastly different pursuits that exert different stresses on our brains and bodies.
Add to this the fact that there are now believed to be up to nine different forms of intelligence, and it becomes easy to see that there’s no one rule for achieving mastery in a given subject.
Fortunately, irrespective of how long it may end up taking, there are now more options than ever for students to embark upon in their learning journeys thanks to the internet, and the ease of access afforded by our smart devices.
Hit the Books (Or Websites)
One of the classic ways of learning a subject is to simply research it as much as you can in an organized way. While in the past this typically meant setting up camp in a library with a stack of books, nowadays we can explore the huge diversity of websites, tutorials and guides online when we want to undertake learning a new skill.
There are some useful caveats to this however – for one, as the internet is unregulated, it’s important to check out the credentials of the so-called “expert” or website you’re learning from. A questionable WikiHow article may give you some useful pointers, but it may equally send you in the wrong direction, give you incorrect facts or cause you to learn bad habits.
A better way to approach learning online is to seek out resources offered by leading platforms in the sector you’re interested in. For example, reputable iGaming platforms will often have tutorials that explain the general rules of poker that are curated by seasoned pros. Likewise, using a well-established site like the National Gardening Association will get budding gardeners started out on the right track.
Explore Gamified Apps
The range of smartphone apps available nowadays is incredible – and they’re not all just focused on social media or gaming. There are a huge range of educational apps in both the App Store and Google Play Store.
Take for example, Brilliant – a STEM-focused training app that assists users with learning the fundamentals of a range of subjects from calculus to applied logic. There’s also the huge range of language learning apps out there, such as leading light Duolingo which has assisted millions of users across the world in developing functional fluency in no less than 38 different languages.
Where these apps offer a distinct advantage over other forms of learning is that they gamify the process. Put simply, this means they turn the experience of learning into a game, with levels, progress awards and challenges. By incentivizing the learning process in this way, these apps streamline the friction traditionally associated with picking up a new subject.