Why The 10,000 Hour Rule Can’t Help You Make Money Online or Offline



I am sure that by now you have heard of the 10,000-hour rule. If for some reason this is not ringing any bells for you I will bring you up to speed.

Malcolm Gladwell decided for his third non-fiction book, Outliers, he would examine the factors that contribute to high levels of success. During his research he found a common theme between the high achievers he profiled in his book.

It turned out that they all had invested about 10,000 hours to the thing that brought them success. The Beatles performed live more than 1200 times; amassing more than 10,000 hours playing time before being recognized as the musical superstars they are today.

He also profiles Bill Gates. Who gained access to a computer at the age of 13 and had spent 10,000 hours programming on it before releasing his first operating system.

The book is a fantastic read and I recommend you pick up a copy for yourself. There is so much more to this book than the 10,000 hours, it really helps a reader understand that there are no naturally talented individuals. If they want to be good at something all they need to do is invest a bit more time than their peers and they will become an expert before them.

Even though I love this book, there is one thing that I really don’t like about it. The 10,000-hour rule is very catchy and it is easy to focus on the amount of hours to be an expert. The rest of the book is forgotten and the only thing remembered is 10,000 hours.

We don’t even find accurate retellings of the rule when searching for it on the Internet. Suddenly if you want to be successful in anything you need to invest 10,000 hours or you will just be another fish in the sea of failure.

Suddenly, someone who wants to start a new business learns of this 10,000-hour rule and they think that they can’t take action until they hit that elusive 10,000 hours.

That is not the point of the book. The idea was to show that we are all on a level playing field. There is no such thing as naturally talented.

If you run into someone and the first thing you think is they are just naturally good at it, think on this, and realize that they have just put in more hours than you at getting better.

Again, Outliers is a fantastic book. Go read it. But, remember all the other points that Malcolm Gladwell has to say.

In fact, forget about the 10,000-hour rule.

It has no bearing on you right now.

What I want you to focus on is the 20-hour rule.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA has said that it only takes 20 hours to become proficient in your chosen task.

Check out his Tedx talk on this

20 hours.

You think you can do that?

That’s less than an hour a day for a month.

All you need to invest is 20 hours to be good.

When you come up against something that seems intimidating or you feel overwhelmed, commit to investing 20 hours.

Forget about getting through everything. All the training, and all the books that you find on the Internet are too big of a barrier on you right now. Just make a commitment to reach 20 hours.

If you do this the fear and the doubt will melt away, because you know that 20 hours is nothing, especially when you were worried about reaching 10,000.


  1. Good and interesting post.

    I have read about the 10,000 hour rule before and how lots of successes can be attributed to it, consciously or unconsciously.

    The 10,000 rule may be true for many successes but you are right, it can be scary. Just the thought might dissuade people from even attempting.

    I don’t completely agree with Josh Kaufman’s 20 hour rule but I can see how that’s a good start for anyone who wants to become proficient in his or her chosen task.

    Thanks for sharing the video, I am off to watch it now. It’s about 20 minutes but should be worth watching.

  2. Hi Adam,

    Your title drew me in to read the rest of the article.

    You are right, it’s wrong to keep repeating that if you want to be successful in anything you need to invest 10,000 hours or you will just be another fish in the sea of failure.

    Like you proved with Josh Kaufman’s 20-hour rule, one doesn’t have to spend up to 10,000 hours to become successful.

    20 hours of concentrated and committed effort is good enough start.

    Thanks for letting us into this new line of thinking.

  3. Hey Adam,
    I know about the 10,000 hours rule and how it is needed to make one become an “expert”.

    For the 20 hours rule to become proficient, this is my first time of reading and learning about this rule.

    Its quite interesting seeing how Josh Kaufman described the first 20 hours of proficiency.

    I agree with the rule in that it will provide for quicker assessment of goals than the 10,000 hours.

    However, whether we follow 20 hours or 10,000 hours, what matters is that we stick to actions that will bring results within the time frame!

  4. Hi Adam,

    While I do get the message both authors are trying to pass across to their audience, am convinced enough they both miss one critical aspect of achieving success that should have go with their theories.

    The numbers of hours anyone put into making something work or better doesn’t matter or automatic translate to success if such amount of time is not spend towards positive thinking and executions.

    The amount of productive time we spent on completing our task is what really counts and the one that could lead to success.

    Thanks Adam.
    Shamsudeen Adeshokan recently posted…Easy SEO Techniques to Move Your Wellness Business OnlineMy Profile

  5. Hey Adam,

    The 10,000 hour rule is great, but can be deceptive. I often hear people mention it while having a wrong perception of it. Even worse, it can prevent people from taking action towards their goals.

    I saw that video from Josh a while ago, and I thought it was fascinating. I know for a fact that you do not need 10,000 hours to become an expert or really knowledgeable at something.

    Thank you for sharing this and spreading this message, Adam. I’ll share this. It’s definitely worth spreading some more.

    – Jasper
    Jasper Oldersom recently posted…Do You Leverage These Swiping Secrets To Make Your Web Copy More Effective?My Profile

  6. Hey Adam,
    Forget about the 10,000 rule? Focus on the 20 hour rule? What sense does this make seeing that 10,000 is what we get if we multiply 500 by 20!

    These are questions that come up my mind after reading up to the point between Malcom Gladwell and Josh Kaufman!

    Becoming an expert takes more time and its always advocated that 10,000 hour investment is all that is needed.

    However, if we can actually achieve quick expertise and proficiency with just 20 hour-rule, why not?

    I think the details shared by Josh Kaufman will readily make all the difference!

  7. Hey Adam,

    I heard this saying that the laziest people are the hardest working people. In relationship to the 10,000 hours rule, if you’re only focusing 10,000 hours without getting into the “rhythm” of the skill then it wouldn’t necessarily mean you will reach success.

    I’ve read the book and the 10,000 hour rule did stick out the most to me. But as i relate this to me as far as learning how to salsa dance, play piano and congas, then me and many others would serious be outliers to those that put in 10,000 hours (not to get besides myself).

    A couple of years ago I read another book called “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle, where he focused more on accuracy and sufficiency than how many hours of practice you put in. You do this, as the speaker suggested, break the skill down, but also slow down in the action of adjusting yourself to the skill. It makes it easier to self correct and personally I’ve had more success with it.

    Great topic Adam! Have a good one!
    Sherman Smith recently posted…Google URL Builder: Quick And Easy Way Of Tracking Your Sites’ PerformanceMy Profile

    • Hello Sherman ,

      I will pick up The Talent Code, thank you for that recommendation.

      The initial idea behind the 10,000 hour rule was to point out that outliers had invested many hard, focused, grueling hours to learning and improving their craft.

      The rule has since morphed into a road block for starting entrepreneurs. My intention was to alleviate this roadblock by giving new entrepreneurs a more manageable goal of 20 hours to focus on.

      Being expert and being proficient are very different, but if I am looking for a leader to teach me the ropes in Internet marketing, I don’t need an expert, I just need someone who knows a little more than me.
      Adam D. Mason recently posted…10 Tips On Time Management From A Lazy GunnyMy Profile

  8. Hi Adam,
    Becoming an expert in anything takes time. I am sure many researchers and professionals like Malcom Gladwell have associated high achievers with the 10,000 hours rule.

    In the very least, if “productively” 10,000 hour is spent in learning a skill then the individual would be an expert.

    This has been the standard follow for many who teaches others to become an expert.

    However, its interesting also knowing that another rule can give same result but shorter time!

    The 20 hour-rule for developing proficiency by Josh Kaufman is quite an interesting rule to be considered.

    After all, if I can learn something and become proficient in 20 hours, why spend 10,000 hours on same task?

    Sure, I will stick with committing achieve success with 20 hours if this what it takes!
    Sunday William recently posted…Who Is a Smart Content Marketer To You?My Profile

    • Hello Chery,

      I read a lot, and in turn I recommend books I have enjoyed to my associates. I saw that after I recommended Outliers, many new people thought that they could not go on because they had not invested anywhere near 10,000 hours. They felt that if they were not “expert” no one would listen to what they have to say.

      I found that these people who were halted in their progress were given new hope after they watched Josh’s Tedx video.

      Talking about hours, there is another one that I heard. You only need 2 hours to understand enough to teach a new skill. So those of us who make a career of teaching can study a new item and have enough knowledge after 2 hours to be able to teach it to others.
      Adam D. Mason recently posted…10 Tips On Time Management From A Lazy GunnyMy Profile

  9. I like the idea of only having to learn about 20 hours worth of something in order to start a business or learn enough about it. This is actually true because in order to start a business you only need to know more than the person who is trying to learn from you.

    But, in order to be truly be known as an expert and have enough information to dish out to people in simple terms, I think the 10,000 hour rule apply in MOST cases.

    This was an inspiring piece. Anyone can do anything.
    Lawrence Berry recently posted…How To Be Financially Wise In Your 20’sMy Profile

    • Hello Lawrence,

      You hit it right on the head, anyone can do anything.

      I found that people would use 10,000 hours as an excuse why they could not do something. But, really we can do anything.

      10,000 hours, 20 hours, it really doesn’t matter. The real thing to remember is no matter what stage you are in online business, there will always be someone who is not as far as you. That is enough to be an expert in that persons eyes.

      Adam D. Mason recently posted…You Don’t Know What You Don’t KnowMy Profile

  10. Hello Adam,

    I like this post.

    You are right, the 10,000 hour rule can be overwhelming, even in instances where just a few hours is good enough.

    I agree with Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA with what he said of it only taking 20 hours to become proficient in your chosen task.

    Those always giving one excuse after another should stop and get going.

    Thanks for this reminder.

  11. Hello Adam,

    You bring up an interesting topic about 10,000 hours rule.

    Indeed, Outliers is a fantastic read. Personally I think, the 10,000 hours rule is a good reminder for anyone wants to achieve success in short time. It’s not like they can not make it, but they will treat their business more seriously and spend more time into it.

    In contrast, as you mentioned “10,000 hours, 20 hours, it really doesn’t matter” and I totally agree with this point. As long as you have great passion in what you’re doing, just do it ! Following with the right plan, stick with it and forget the definition of time. You may not become the one people expect, but you may become the one you want to be.

  12. Hey Adam,

    What a motivating piece you have shared here!

    Indeed, we shouldn’t focus on the 10,000 hour rule because the timing is not the point of the rule.

    The focal point is that we can all achieve mastery if we put in more time.

    I like to think that following the 20 hour rule for proficiency as recommended by Josh Kaufman is very tactical. It can help us achieve more with less time.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome piece!

  13. Hey Adam,

    It is cool to be reminded of the 10,000 hour rule. I have idea of what this concept means. However, I agree with you that often times the idea behind this concept is misconstrued.

    Perceiving it at face value will not help one to make money online unless certain there is a ‘learning’ at every second, minute or hour.

    However, it is good to try out the 20 hour rule because it could give the practitioner immediate expert results!

  14. Yes Adam, dwelling on achieving 10,000 hour mark to become an expert will not help us make money online or offline.

    What matters is that the learning curve should be steep and assailable! Josh Kaufman’s idea of 20 hour rule should be tried because the time frame is short and it creates a sense of urgency that can be used for speedy learning!

  15. Hi Adam,

    I guess we should try out the 20 hour rule now since there is a lot of misconception about the 10000 hour rule.

    Nevertheless, I love the facts of this post because they are motivational. They readily brings to light the fact that one can actually increase knowledge, expertise and productivity within a determined period – and of course if only every individual action is geared towards learning and improvement!

  16. Hey Adam,

    The facts of this post are revealing to me. I am not a fan of the 10,000 hour rule. However, I guess it works for some people.

    I am going to stick with the concluding advice you gave in this post: “Forget about getting through everything. All the training, and all the books that you find on the Internet are too big of a barrier on you right now. Just make a commitment to reach 20 hours.

    If you do this the fear and the doubt will melt away, because you know that 20 hours is nothing, especially when you were worried about reaching 10,000.”
    Thanks for sharing this and see you at the top! 😀

  17. Hi Adam

    I am an enthusiast of Time Ferriss’ attitude to learning and becoing an expert at something. He breaks any skill/expertise down to its constituent parts, clarifys what the most effective aspects are and works on those, using the 80:20 rule. I find that more appealing though I do accept that long term committment certainly pays off.

    Thanks for your post