Revisiting the 10,000 Hour Rule

So many of us are striving to become the best in our fields as part of this increasingly competitive global business environment. Imagine the existence of a formal recipe to shorten the path from being an apprentice to becoming a grand master?

The intention of this article is not to defend or attack the popular notion of the so called 10,000 hour rule, but rather to put an eastern slash philosophical spin on the notion of growth from apprentice to grand master in your specific field.

Similar to the nature vs nurture argument in psychology, the popularity of the 10,000 hour rule may have been driven by its underlying promise of power to he who embraces the notion that:

“people aren't born geniuses, they get there through effort”
According to ancient Chinese philosophy, for anything to succeed, it requires a strong foundation. Only once the foundation is rock solid will the creative side be able to complement the foundation and thereby lead to the emergence of true value.

In line with this philosophy, we always strive to limit any additions in our portfolio to businesses that are intentionally congruent with our current operations and body of knowledge. In theory this approach enables us to build on the foundation of past experience and thereby require much less than 10,000 hours to become truly competent.

After spending a considerable amount of time discussing these concepts with my mentors, there are two models that stand out.

Firstly, the one approach lists the following types of business enthusiasts:

  1. Novice
  2. Hobbyist
  3. Businessman
  4. Strategist
  5. Ghost
The second approach seemed familiar, until I looked deeper:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence
  5. Reflective competence
While the second approach is widely known as the four stages of competence, my mentor Dr Sundardas opened my eyes to the existence of a 5th stage and suddenly my mentor Dr Jeh Shyan Wong’s first model started to make more sense.

1. The beginner’s mind

In order to reach the stage of reflective competence, the master requires a “beginner’s mind”, which refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."
When deliberately assuming the attitude of the beginner’s mind, the apprentice, craftsman or master will reflect on the field of study and attempt to break every concept down to its simplest form. Through this process, new insights will arise and lead to increased clarity.

2. Find enough people to teach

As you teach more and more people on a specific subject, it will become easier to identify their current stage of development. It is only possible to assist someone in reaching the next stage if you have clarity on their current stage of growth.

As soon as you meet someone for the first time and during the first interaction are able to identify their current stage of development and immediately after that are able to assist them in moving to the next level, have you reached the grand master stage.

3. Understand the psychology of growth

People generally move through stages before they are willing to change/grow. If a you are not sensitive to this process, you will not be able to reach the grand master stage:

  1. Precontemplation – At this stage they are only thinking about thinking about the possibility of change.
  2. Contemplation – They are now starting to think about the implications of the change.
  3. Realisation – At some stage they realise that it is a good idea to change.
  4. Ready to make changes – They are now prepared to change.
  5. Make changes
If you understand this psychology and are able to guide someone through this process of preparing for growth, the journey will be much smoother for both you and the apprentice.

I am extremely thankful to my mentors who are willing to empower me with this type of knowledge. I am on a journey of constant learning and growth, so if anyone wants to add something, please feel free to make your suggestions in the comments section below.

"Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." ~ Andy Rooney