The striking thing about Ericsson's study is that he and his colleagues couldn't find any "naturals," musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any "grinds," people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn't have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work juts hard or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.
The idea that excellence at perforing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researches have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.
"...in study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn't address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But 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 acheieve true mastery."
This is true even of people we think of as prodigies.
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