Why 10,000 hours may or may not make you an expert?

We are governed by the theory that 10,000 hours makes one an expert in their required field. In other words, it would take one 10,000 hours to become proficient and excel at what they do. Five years is said to be the equivalent of 10,000 hours, with approximately 2,000 hours per year making it close to 170 hours per month and works out to around 40 hours per week. How many of us are proficient and excel at each hour of work we do? How many of us take 25-30 hours to do a week’s task as opposed to 40 hours of an average individual?

Working smart instead of working hard may work for some, but for others, they may be governed by their daily hours. Now let’s take a typical days work encompassing a lunch break meeting or two, time on emails or social media, etc. If we subtract these activities you would only get 25-30 out of 40 hours of proficient work completed in a week.

This is also dependent on the type of work or area of expertise one is in which would require various demands and deadlines to meet. For example, a street hawker has been working for more than 20 years to support his family, through constant hardship and patience. Do we call him/her an expert street hawker? A sports player plays professionally for 10 years and he is regarded as an expert on television. Point is: we need to differentiate between an expert and someone who is experienced. Therefore, one could argue that the street hawker and sports player are experienced at what they do. They are available to offer their advice, based on their experiences. Experience, no textbook can teach you, one has to see for themselves. However, how does one become an expert? Is expertise and experience the same? Surely not!

A student studies for six years (12,000 hours) to become a doctor. Is he now an expert doctor? Five years of deliberate, engaged and thorough focused more experience after graduating would make him an expert, depending on the specialty and sub-specialty he chooses.

There is also a notion that it would take 1000 hours of research to complete a Masters degree. The average time students take to complete their Masters is said to be + two years. If two years gives you 2000 hours, why has someone taken so long to complete their Masters if the suggested time is 1000 hours? Surely it would then take them 6 months? Yes, research is a different process. There are constraints of trial and error, submissions, protocols, field work, etc. However, is the Masters candidate now not an expert? Remember in the clinical and academic sense, an expert should do a minimum of five years work experience after graduation.

Similarly, let’s look at professional sports players. It is deliberated that if one wants to be a good sportsman or sportswoman, they would need to be practicing or working hard at their game for a minimum of 10,000 hours. Lets remember the 40 hour/week formula for daily workers. A child or adolescent only gets up to 20 hours of sport practice per week (that’s if they attending school off course). Which means, a child/adolescent would need to skip school to become a good player in five years? In Europe, there are soccer schools where leads to both academics and soccer but there is more emphasis on the sport which gives them an opportunity to excel at their sport. Then again, some players in developing countries have minimal time to practice and are in worse conditions and hardship. Yet some are able to come out on top than other countries. Why? It can’t just be raw talent. The 10,000 hours formula is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is hugely dependent on the field one works in, sports played and demands of the job. Furthermore, working smart over working hard is the best philosophy to empower a qualitative approach rather than a quantitative approach of approximately 10,000 hours of expertise.


  • Work smart, until it is proficient, not done

  • Train hard, challenge like a king and win like a champion

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