What does it take and how long does it take to achieve mastery in a specific field or endeavor? According to Anders Ericsson, a psychology professor at Florida State University who spent his lifetime studying great performers in sciences, arts, and sports, it takes about a decade of deliberate practice and experience to reach excellence - a revolutionary theory often referred to by psychologists as "the 10-year rule."

The most important part of the human brain used for deliberate practice is the frontal lobe, which is responsible for mental processes such as drive, executive control, and future memory, to name a few. Drive is someone's determination to stick with a training program; executive control is the ability to monitor responses and manage processes; and future memory is the capacity to keep goals in mind while building on past performances and present skills.

The main question is about talent versus hard work: Is the ability to develop superior long-term memories innate, or is it the consequence of individual effort and persistence? The answer to this question is very important because, if genius is genetic, most people are unlucky. On the other hand, if individual effort has a significant impact, most people would be able to achieve levels that will distinguish them from all the people unwilling to put in those many years of deliberate practice.

In any case, what seems to be key is the decision to first take the resolution and then provide the effort to follow a rigorous and generally exhausting training schedule. For Dr. Ericsson, deliberate practice is more important than natural talent in determining success, and he is not the only one to think so. When Graham Greene, the famous novelist, was asked if anyone could be a novelist, he stated: “One has no talent. I have no talent. It’s just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time.”

When researchers studied music students who went on to have a future concert career, they discovered that the "good" students practiced on average nine hours a week, while the "best" students practiced on average 24 hours per week. The scientists found similar habits of intensive and extended practice among mathematicians, memory virtuosos, chess players, athletes, etc.

So, even if the 10-year rule alone may not explain the success of experts and great achievers, putting your time and effort on something on a daily and weekly basis over a long period seems to explain many things.

Peak, Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool