Chapter 2.1—On Being an Expert (at anything)
We left off last week on the cusp of discussing automaticity—the ability to do something automatically, something you don’t need to apply a whole lot of thought to.
You may have heard of
Part of what Gladwell talks about in this book is based on some 1994 research by K. Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness, published in the journal American Psychologist. Gladwell took their research on musicians and spun out its implications (we’ll get back to fiber arts and doodling in a sec). What we’re left with is data on just how much time it takes to become an expert in something—he calls this the 10 years or 10,000 hours rule:
What this chart shows us is:
- the more you practice, the better you get (duh, right? Wait, because there’s more to it than that).
- if you spend under 5000 hours over the course of 16 years practicing something (how to flip a beer mat into the air and catch it?) you’ll be good enough to teach whatever it was you were practicing.
- if you spend more than 5000 hours and less than 8000 hours over the course of 16 years practicing something (piano, maybe?) you’ll be pretty darn good.
- if you spend more than 10,000 hours over the course of 16 years you’ll be the best—an expert.
Now the trick is that it isn’t JUST time that’s the factor: it isn’t 10 years of doing something makes you an expert or 10,000 hours of doing something makes you an expert. There’s more to it than that. If you spend those hours just mindlessly repeating the same things (and the same errors) you’ll be better than you were—maybe—but you won’t become an expert. (We’ll get to why this matters in a bit.) To reach those hallowed heights you have to be more than just plodding along mindlessly—you have to be engaging in Deliberate Practice or Deep Practice.
A practice where you consciously and deliberately knit the new information you’re learning together with what you learned first—your mind knits the information into a whole and new understanding. (See, back to knitting, and so soon!)
To engage in Deliberate or Deep Practice one must be über attentive and constantly pushing to learn more and do more and different.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “Hmmm… I wonder if that makes me an expert?”
So my question back is:
- are you always pushing yourself to try and learn new things?
- —new ways to hold your hook or needles?
- —new ways to tension your yarn?
Or are you simply making 10,000 of the same style baby hats for charity?
There’s nothing wrong with making hundreds of hats for charity… but if you don’t do more than that you won’t become an “expert.”
The good news is this:
to get the benefits I’m talking about you don’t need to be an expert.
You just need to be automatic in your knitting, crocheting, or doodling.
So that’s the question I’ll leave you with today—Where do you fall?
Are you an expert?
Are you still learning?
Or are you simply (and happily) automatic?
Just for fun, I thought you also might like a graph that shows how quickly Deep Practice can move you from a novice knitter to an expert.
I know how much time I spend knitting (14-20 hrs a week, nearly all at night) and how long I’ve been knitting (off and on since I was 5) and that I’m constantly trying new techniques and patterns (to avoid boredom)… how about you?