From success coaches to the so-called inspirational books and the literature in between, practice is often touted as the ultimate key to success. A new study claims that this may not actually be the case.
Most of this obsession with the theory that practice makes us successful, goes back to a study by K. Anders Ericson in 1993. Some popular explanations of the theory include the famous 10,000 hour rule which tries to prove that every successful man has had 10,000 or so hours of practice which made him as successful as he is.
But a new study contests all of this. According to a paper published in Intelligence, it has been claimed that practice is not all that important. The study focuses on chess and music as the domains of its research and states, “Deliberate practice does not explain all, nearly all, or even most of the variance in performance in chess and music, the two most widely studied domains in expertise research. Put another way, deliberate practice explains a considerable amount of the variance in performance in these domains, but leaves a much larger amount of the variance unexplained.”
In the case of chess players, the study cites that some players reached the heights of success in the chess world within 2 or so years, while others took more than two decades of practice to achieve this. The obvious anomaly shows that practice is not always the key to success.
Instead, other factors such as starting age, personality, intelligence and other genetic factors may be involved in the success of many. According to the study, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that ‘quite clear that some people do reach an elite level of performance without copious practice, while other people fail to do so despite copious practice.’
These findings are in contrast to the previously held and actively propagated view that practice can allow one to virtually excel in any field. As faulty as that assumption sounded, it was an idea that sold well primarily because people want to believe that they can do anything. So in that sense, this new study is somewhat of a reality check for many.