Beyond 10,000 Hours: Study Reveals 5 Keys To Being Elite In Your Field

TRONDHEIM, Norway — Many people believe Malcolm Gladwell’s dictum that in order to be truly great at something, one must commit to at least 10,000 hours of practice. While dedicated training is certainly an integral part of the recipe for success, a new study finds four additional factors that are needed to truly become elite at a given field.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have been studying and researching skill development for over 30 years. Now, after a recent study involving 126 participants, they’ve concluded that passion, grit, a positive mindset, intense training, and support from a mentor(s), are all necessary elements to becoming the best at something.

“It seems that certain factors need to be present to become an expert within a given field,” comments Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson, of NTNU’s Department of Psychology, in a statement.

While training is obviously a huge part of the process from a more practical standpoint, the research team say an individual is going to need the other four elements as well to stay dedicated and focused on the extensive amount of practice that is required to become elite.

“A key concept in this context is to find an area that you’re interested in. That’s how we can light the spark,” Sigmundsson explains. “You need something more. You need a passion for what you’re doing. You have to burn for it,”

Grit, or the ability to persevere through tough times; pain, early mornings, sacrifices, etc, is key to ensuring an individual stays on track and keeps at an activity for the long haul. And, of course, a positive belief in oneself is also integral to being elite; if someone really doesn’t believe in themselves it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Finally, researchers say that at one point or another, everyone is going to need someone to lean on a bit. That’s where a mentor comes in to help and make sure the individual stays on track. Ideally, such a mentor should also be an expert in that given field, and should be available throughout the entire training process.

Ultimately, though, the study’s authors say it all begins with passion. “Passion sets the direction of your arrow, but grit determines the strength and size of the arrow,” Sigmundsson says.

As far as gender differences, researchers noted that men seem to have an easier time transforming their passion into grit; generally, when a man is passionate about something he exerts a lot of energy on it. Women, on the other hand, tend to form stronger connections between their passion and a positive mindset.

The study is published in the scientific journal New Ideas in Psychology.

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