The best known principle out of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is the 10.000 hour rule. In a nutshell: people are successful because of the number of hours they put in, not because they have a particular talent. If you clock this amount of hours, you'll be an expert. Lots of people have been thinking about this since, agreeing and disagreeing. Tim Ferriss (another popular writer who wrote “The 4 hour workweek”) has published all kinds of examples of ways to learn faster: he does not think 10.000 hours are needed to become one of the best in a particular skill. The only thing that is needed is to be really focussed in your training. Cal Newport is talking about this topic a lot and he calls it “deep work”. Deep work is the kind of work that gets you promoted. Compare this with normal work: it will only make sure you’ll keep your job.

We need to be really deliberate with our practice if we want to keep growing. Tim Ferriss mentions the Pareto principle, because with almost everything, a small amount of the effort is responsible for the biggest chunk of the value. Example: Ferriss talks about learning Spanish. Spanish has an average word count of 100.000 words. To be perceived as fluent in conversational Spanish (95% of all conversations), you need to have a vocabulary of around 2.500 words. That’s 2.5%. Being focussed on what you need to learn to get the most value in the least amount of time can get you there really fast. Take some time to focus your learning could save you a lot of time.

Becoming better takes time. It sounds pretty simple: just learn 2.500 words and you’re done. But as simple as it sounds, you know it is hard to follow trough with something like this. It requires a huge amount of effort and energy to master a new skill. Whether you’ll follow the 80/20 rule, you schedule blocks of time for deep work or you want to get to 10.000 hours, this stuff is hard and takes time. Practice is boring, because you’re doing the same thing over and over again, but that is the only way which will make you better than the average.

Which skill are you deliberately developing right now? Are you putting in the thought and the hours?