Published: 30th November 2019
Canteen fundas: Here's a look at what it takes to become an expert in something you put your mind to
Experts are made, not born. It requires a minimum of ten years or 10,000 hours of intense training, deliberate practice and constant work on specific skills
How I’d like to be like Virat Kohli or Lionel Messi,’ said Rahul. ‘What do they have bhaiyya that we don’t?’
‘Expertise Rahul,’ said Rakesh. ‘If you want to be one, you must work hard like them.’
‘Bhaiyya, are you saying such talented people work hard to become experts?’ asked Rinku.
‘Yes Rinku,’ said Rakesh. ‘There’s a study about high performers in various fields — surgery, chess and so on — edited by Professor K Anders Ericsson, an expert on expertise. The conclusion is that experts are made, not born. Roughly, one needs a minimum of ten years or 10,000 hours of intense training to become an expert.’
‘Wow,’ said Rahul. ‘If I practice for 10,000 hours will I become an expert bhaiyya?’
‘That’s a big step towards it. But more important than the quantity is the quality. It’s not practice that makes you perfect but perfect practise that makes you perfect.’
‘What’s that bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.
‘If you practice the wrong things you’ll become an expert in the wrong things,’ laughed Rakesh. ‘But if you practice right you become perfect. Experts do what is called deliberate practice where they work on two things — improving skills they have and practising things they cannot do. Apart from perfecting what they know, they put in sustained effort towards things they can’t do well. They practice deliberately to eliminate weaknesses.’
‘Can anyone become an expert, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku. ‘Don’t you need talent? And passion?’
‘I’m assuming one is really passionate and reasonably good to devote ten years to perfect a skill,’ said Rakesh.
‘Becoming an expert is tough. It requires a lot of effort, sacrifice and struggle. What definitely helps is an early start, dedicated teachers and supportive families.’
‘Do these experts practice 12 hours a day?’ asked Rinku.
‘Actually, no,’ said Rakesh. ‘Deliberate practise requires high levels of concentration. Some experts are known to work intensely for two to four hours a day. A good coach can help you find optimal levels of practice, identify next-level skills and coach you so that you can
‘What about all my previous practice, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul. ‘Is that wasted?’
‘It all helps,’ said Rakesh. ‘But it’s not about counting the hours. What matters is the quality of deliberate practice — perfecting a particular aspect of your skill each time you practice with intense involvement and awareness.’
‘Time to start deliberate practice,’ said Rinku. ‘I hope our chai-maker is deliberately practising making some excellent chai.’
Pro Tip: Experts are made, not born. It requires a minimum of ten years or 10,000 hours of intense training, deliberate practice and constant work on specific skills.