Skip to main content

Magic 10,000. - Secret of Champions and Masters.

We often do not know about what made it possible but we spot talent and mastery in individuals only when it suddenly erupts forth on the global stage.

Infinite research has been carried out and countless tomes have been written, trying to answer the question, "what is it that makes people so incredibly talented and achieve mastery?"

While DNA and upbringing is important, the most important are belief, passion, and hard work.

Called the '10 years Rule', by Herbert Simon the Nobel Prize winner in Economics provides us an answer.

A study by 'High performance Anthropologist' Rasmus Ankerson corroborates this 10 year rule with the 10,000 hours, and the 10,000 cycles rule.


Mastery comes from repeatedly practicing something and learning from each session and every hour of practice. 

Let's look at some examples. 

Nadia Comăneci
Nadia Comăneci, the first person to ever win ever perfect scores in gymnastics. This feat she achieved at the 1976 Montreal Olympics at the age of 14 years. 

Nadia the hyper active child was enrolled by her mother into gymnastics class while in Kindergarten and practiced rigorously an average of 8 hours per day for nearly a decade before the whole world saw her amazing mastery. She is also listed as #9 in "The Top 100 Olympic Athletes" list.

Rift Valley in Kenya
A little area of 100 sq. kms called the Rift Valley in Kenya is home to the Kalenjin people has consistently produced the worlds greatest marathoners and long distance running champions. How so?

The mountainous terrain at 2,500 mtrs. altitude is difficult even to walk particularly with the very thin air.  Schools are located between 5 to 10 kms from villages. From age 5 young children run to school and back each day, logging in about 1500 kms each year.  They build up optimal technique, stamina and endurance capability without even trying.  

Youngsters elsewhere in the world start at 10 or 12 practicing 2 hours per day achieve only 500 to 700 hours of running and training practice per year.
Where as the time the children have reached the age of 15, Kenyans in the Rift valley would have have already clocked 10,000 to 15,000 kms, easily and consistently zoom ahead, outclassing all competition.

Runners training at Iten in Kenya
 The evidence is very clear. In all of history only 17 Americans have run the marathon under a time of 2:10. In contrast 32 Kenyans do it in just one month.

Practicing, even in a state of the art sports infrastructure without the requisite hours and passion often results  in athletes being outclassed by more practiced competitor.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is the worlds greatest swimming legend ever. He has won 28 Olympic medals. According to his coach and trainer Bob Bowman Phelps practised every day for 8 hours a day without a break for 5 years, even on Christmas, and his birthday.

Albert Einstein

While examples in competitive sport are more prominent, the 10 year, 10,000 hours rule applies to all aspects of life.  

Take the case of the famed scientist Albert Einstein. He started thinking about Physics and relativity and several associated theories while still a student. Working as a clerk in the Patents office in Bern he produced his theories after 10 years of sustained effort. 


Another example is Mozart the great music composer. He studied and practised for a decade before the world suddenly noticed the great composer and musician.

Even political families evolve into political dynasties because members are groomed from childhood to be political leaders. Same applies to some professions, military leaders, business families and even criminal gangs.

If one looks at the case of businesses and industries. 
Business families normally expose their children to the activities of the business at a very early age. 

I can share with you my own experience. Brought up within a family of industrialists we brothers got the opportunity to accompany our father and uncle to spend many weekends and holidays either at the office, factory or some assigned tasks. It was fun and without realisation a great learning. Undertaking little errands and tasks, listening and observing passively and without conscious realisation I received an education and training about industry, business and most importantly life.  

I had a fairly clear idea about how I wanted to evolve our industry and live my life early in life. By the time I completed my formal engineering studies, I had  acquired practice not only in 'know how' but also 'know why' from all sorts of teachers, parents, workmen, engineers, managers, customers, competitors etc. I had worked in a significant manner on all aspects of our industry, the the processes, the people, the philosophy and the challenges. Already a deep knowledgable about motivating and leading people, design, production, quality, marketing, purchase, finance etc. without much effort. 

What are the lessons?  I submit that, 
1. Success is very rarely an accident.  Talents gifted by nature, have to be developed or else they will never achieve their true potential. 
2. That practice makes perfect, because with each practice comes a new learning and the opportunity to improve. 
3. The typical time required to achieve mastery is 10,000 hours, cycles and usually a minimum of 10 years of time with constant effort. 
4. Catching talented people young and exposing them to the opportunities to discover their talents is even more essential.
5. Passion to succeed is also key, but notes on that will have to emerge in a separate article.

Evidence shows that, when people are exposed to real life situations in various walks of life early as in childhood and adolescence, evolve with a greater understanding of life and themselves. 
When children are molly coddled, disconnected from real life situations until they are mature adults actually puts them at a great disadvantage compared to more 'worldly wise'  peers. 
Call it what you may, EQ, IQ, TQ etc. is lower amongst delayed learners than others who receive earlier and greater exposure.


I am grateful to the following persons for their valuable insights.

1. Pavit Singh, Director of Hotfut Sports
2. Loknath Char - Swimming champion 
3. George Makasare, CEO of Tarang Sports and Education Foundation

Ampav Education and Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. is a Pune based knowledge company that works towards evolving better ways for individuals, communities and organisations to Work, Live and Play.


Popular posts from this blog

Last thoughts and words of Emperor Aurangzeb

The 6th Mughal emperor of India, Aurangzeb was a brave but cruel man. While he was an excellent military leader, he was a weak administrator with poor understanding of economics. As a result he landed up being dependent on corrupt, fanatical people who only hungered for power and wealth.

Aurangzeb's lust for power was insatiable. In this quest he spared no one, imprisoning his own father, and slaughtering his brothers and nephews. He inherited an expanding empire which permitted him to rule the largest area of the Mughal empire's history, before he led it into decline. 

He felt that his actions had probably made him repugnant to the people and his legitimacy to rule would always be questioned. So he adopted a frugal life style and tried to be a good Muslim to appease the powerful clerics, soldiers, noblemen and the muslim public, which would allow him to rule effectively.

Like many other misguided men he came to believed that Islam meant only violent, subjugation and persecution.…

The Lopez Effect

Every now & then things get tough for a lot of organisations. This may be caused by technology, competition, recession or whatever. When the nasty stuff hits the fan, this is what typically happens at large organisations;

The CMD (Chairman & Managing Director) will call a meeting and scream and rant on how useless and lazy his entire management team is and how they have let the organisation's profitability slide. blah, blah, blah!!!!

The boss desperately searches for a scapegoat. Sometimes sacrificial lambs are found and a few heads roll and the situation only deteriorates because attacking people rather problems never helps. Sometimes the boss realises the truth, that there is no one individual or department or function that can be specifically blamed except the boss himself.

After venting his ire, the boss will issue a diktat to the management team. "I want my organisation to return to high profitability so this is what the team is going to do. I want you to reduce…

The Ghosts of 1962

Lest we forget the war of 1962.
Understanding the Chinese invasion of India and the aftermath.

In late 1940s two sleeping giants began to stir awake. 
Barring the gruesome partition, modern democratic India had a peaceful birth in 1947. Nehru the Indian prime minister therefore believed, power came from eloquence, amity and diplomacy. 

China (PRC) on the other hand had a very violent birth in 1949, hence Mao Tse-tung held the belief that power came from the barrel of a gun. 

Nehru fancied himself as becoming a world leader. He wanted India and China to partner together, to create a third pole that would not be aligned to either American led West Capitalistic block nor the Soviet led Communist block. In pursuit of this dream he stooped and pampered China to no end. He fawned over China and also rued that he did not have the type of committed cadre that Mao had.

This approach did not go down well with the Americans nor the Russians, who wanted to retain their global preeminence. They both wan…