How long does it take to raise a genius?

This is also one of the most controversial topics about genius.

This huge discussion was triggered by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, the Outliers, where he popularized a view that you need 10 thousand hours to become a Genius.

He admits that he believes in born geniuses, however in his opinion talent has a much smaller role than diligence and effort.

His view is built upon the research of K. Anders Ericson.

Ericson researched this topic with his colleagues at the Berlin School of Music.

They asked the teachers to create three groups from the students:

  • Teachers selected those students in the first group, who had the chance to become celebrated violin soloist.
  • In the second group were selected those, who are simply good.
  • And the third group consisted of students who had no chance to become professional musicians based on the opinion of their teachers.

And they asked all of the three groups, how many hours they exercised since they started to play the violin.

Mostly all of them started playing when they were 5 years old.

At the beginning they played 3 hours a week. Ericson identified the first differences when they were 8 years old.

The first group exercised much more.

Still their twenties the differences were huge.

 The first group practiced 10 thousand hours, the second group 8000 hours, and the third group played only 4000 hours.

The research had two interesting conclusions.

They could not identify a born genius, who could be so good without any effort, without the right amount of exercise.

And they could not find any student who exercised in vain.

So maybe you have great abilities when you were born, however you need a lot of exercise to acquire a skill, to be really professional on your field.

The theory was criticized, because other researchers found that people don’t need the same amount of time for becomingfor example a great musician.

Ok, let’s see what can explain the differences?

I will mention three potential explanations that can refine this picture.

First, we can go back to the question if geniuses are born or made.

Of course, that is an obvious answer, but the situation is more complicated.

The second explanation for the differences can be, what we call exercise.

At this point you should not necessarily think about rigid teaching and learning.

In many cases the child can gain experience before starting to learn the chosen field.

Think about music for example.

The child’s learning process does not start when holding the violin the first time.

Before this event she had the chance to hear a lot of music, which contributed to her musical development.

The Bronte sisters before writing great novels read several books and tried to create small stories by themselves.

Without doubt, these were only bad quality copies of known books, but it was a great opportunity for them to practice.

Same is true for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was considered to be a child genius.

However, if we look at his own compositions still his 20th birthday, these were mostly copies of other musicians.

And finally we arrived at our third explanation.

Not only the quantity of exercising is important, but also the quality of it.

It can influence what we learn in a class, and if we practice enough week by week.

That is a so important topic, that I will cover this in different lessons.

According to László Polgár, we can determine the probability for being a potential genius based on our age:

  • 80% of 1-year-old children are potential geniuses
  • 60% of 3 years old children are potential geniuses
  • 50% of 6 years old children are potential geniuses
  • 40% of 12 years old children are
  • potential geniuses
  • 30% of 16 years old children are potential geniuses
  • 20% of 18 years old children are potential geniuses
  • Only 5% of 20 years old children are potential geniuses
  • If we are 35 years old, it is already decided if we became a genius or not

I met also many adult people asking if they have a chance to become a genius in their lives.

That is the answer also for those who have this question.

However, I truly believe in fighting for our goals.

So at the end of this lesson I would like to mention an interesting guy, who want to test if the 10-thousand-hour rule is working for him.

Dan decided in April 2010 to quit his job and, with zero previous experience in the game, dedicate 10,000 hours of practice to golf.

Still now he practiced 5,500 hours and it has been about four point five years since he started playing golf. 

That means he has about 4 years remaining. 

Still now not everything goes as planned, but I truly support him to reaching his goals.

However, at the moment I believe in early specialization, the 10-thousand-hour rule and deep practicing, which I will analyze in other lessons.


Előd Szabó
Előd Szabó

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