This afternoon a colleague and I were talking about something or other and the topic turned to how many steps I take on a given day on the consult service. I minimized it. He also mentioned something about the significance of the number 10,000, I guess as it might relate to gaining proficiency at anything, maybe including walking. He wondered who came up with the magic number of 10,000.
At the time I couldn’t for the life of me think of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success. In Section Two of Part One: Opportunity, Gladwell describes the 10,000–hour rule or practice time. In it he quotes a neurologist who talks of the minimum level of practice time it takes to achieve true expertise, which turns out to be 10,000 hours.
“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert–in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin.
Studies of pros at all levels reveals the number 10,000 again and again. OK, so it’s not 10,000 hours but today my pedometer actually read close to 10,000 steps.
It was a long day and days like the one I had today are increasingly frequent, by day’s end leading to my feeling of identification with a whole team of psychiatrists who simply said enough is enough and quit their jobs at a hospital called Sacred Heart in a story that got tweeted around…today in fact.
I wonder how many of them had their 10,000 hours in. I passed 10,000 hours a long time ago, but I notice there are more and more days I don’t feel any wiser or stronger–just the opposite, really. I can walk 10,000 steps…and I just feel tired.
I’ll tell you what feels like 10,000 steps and that’s all the administrative and political back roads and blind allies I have to walk.
Now I’m probably not going to feel this way in a few days and I might snap out of it tomorrow–maybe–if things slow down a little–in 10,000 hours. There’s always retirement…