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Malcolm Gladwell Issues an Important Clarification About His Famous 10,000 Hour Rule


"There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers."

Malcolm Gladwell speaks with Glenn Beck about 'David and Goliath' on Nov. 4, 2013. (Photo: TheBlaze TV)

Put in 10,000 hours and you can master anything! Except, of course, if you can't.

(Photo: TheBlaze TV) (Photo: TheBlaze TV)

During an "ask me anything" appearance on the popular website Reddit, author Malcolm Gladwell clarified one of his most well-known pop-psychology theories: that it takes about 10,000 hours of hard, diligent practice for someone to become truly great at something.

In his book "Outliers," Gladwell cites examples of the 10,000 hour rule including the Beatles, who ground out show after show in grimy Hamburg clubs before their chart-topping success, and Bill Gates, who poured thousands of hours into computer programming at a young age thanks to opportunities at his progressive Seattle high school.

But critics have enthusiastically picked apart the 10,000 rule, prompting Gladwell to respond on Reddit Monday.

"There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers," Gladwell wrote. "It doesn't apply to sports. And practice isn't a SUFFICIENT condition for success."

Innate talent plays a role in greatness he notes, saying, "I could play chess for 100 years and I'll never be a grandmaster."

The main thrust of his argument remains valid, Gladwell contended, but he acknowledged that it's by no means an ironclad rule.

"The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest," he wrote. "Unfortunately, sometimes complex ideas get oversimplified in translation."

Gladwell also responded to a question about appearing on The Glenn Beck Program, noting that Beck, "unlike most of the people who interviewed me for (my new book) David and Goliath," had actually read and thought about the whole book.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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