10,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice
I recently stumbled across one man’s experiment in “10,000 hours of deliberate practice.” Dan McLaughlin was a 30 year old commercial photographer who decided he wanted to become a professional golfer. That was April 2010, and amazingly Dan had never played a full round of golf before embarking on this project. 3,700 hours into it and he has surpassed 93 percent of registered golfers based on handicap. Here is a recent interview Dan did in Chicago and his website also has a number of links to articles about his story.
“10,000 hours” is a very polarizing subject. It was originally developed by K. Anders Ericcson, but popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers. Many people think it is BS and while I am not sure 10,000 hours is a magic number across all skills and disciplines, I do think the idea of a tremendous amount of deliberate practice is the key to becoming an expert in something.
I’ve often thought of how the 10,000 hour rule applies to investing. The key, as in other disciplines, is correctly defining and practicing deliberate practice. For example, spending 10,000 hours simply reading annual reports won’t make you a great investor (expert), I don’t think. Spending ten thousand hours deeply understanding companies as investments and then making a go/no go decision is closer to the mark. Following back on these go/no go decisions after the thesis has played out and analyzing what you did right or wrong is closer still. Another thing I see is great investors have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about their process and methodology and are constantly trying to improve it.