Hard Work and Practice Are (Still) More Important Than You Think.

You can search high and low, but you will never find a magic potion to replace the practice it takes to become a master pianist.

Your fingers touching the keys, over and over and over again, is required to become world class.

There is no ‘easy button’ that you can press that will bring you to center stage at Carnegie Hall. And there is certainly not a cheat code you can deploy that will make beautiful music reverberate throughout the room and earn you a standing ovation.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the book Outliers, made the 10,000-hour "rule” commonplace like "no running on the pool deck" or "don't chew with your mouth open." Even without his book and his rule, it has been well-understood and widely accepted that if you want to be great at something - you need to practice. A lot.

Since releasing his book and making the “rule” famous, many people have challenged his rule and have proven that practicing something for 10,000 hours doesn't always guarantee you success. Even Gladwell had to clarify that just practicing isn't enough. There are also matters of circumstance beyond your control that will affect you.

Besides sticking a needle in the 10,000-hour balloon, some have taken that idea and adapted it or improved it.

For example, instead of 10,000 hours, someone morphed that into the idea of 10,000 experiments.

And you can boil that down to… how often are you pushing the limits of what you think is possible?

This is all great stuff, but I don’t play piano or work in a lab. I’m here for soccer.

I understand.

Give me a little bit of slack here before you try to reel me in, though.

Let’s look at a simple experiment that you can relate to soccer.

How many different ways can you get the ball off the ground?

Go try. I’ll wait...

Okay, how many? 3? 5? 7? 10? More?

Now, let's think about this a little deeper. How much time do you spend tinkering with the ball? How often are you experimenting with new techniques? How often are trying and failing/succeeding?

If you are indeed experimenting…

  • What roadblocks are you running into?

  • What do you need to improve?

  • Can you do it with both feet?

  • Did you do it successfully more than once?

  • Did you do it successfully five times in a row?

  • Five days in a row?

  • Against a teammate at practice?

  • In a real game?

And if you’re not experimenting, how do you expect to be the best?

Do you think you’re just going to magically do this in a game?


Being able to do these types of things comes from 1) a lot of practice (probably a lot more than 10,000 hours) and 2) a lot of tinkering, experimenting, and finding out what you can actually do (this should happen outside of your regularly training environment).

Zico Bailey did this in the park...

Train like a G, play like a G! 😎 pic.twitter.com/7U82z9FvsL

— John Pranjić (@ThatCroatianGuy) August 15, 2018

A week later he did this in a game...

I apologize for this ✋🤚 pic.twitter.com/kO8uAPYnIG

— Zico (@ZicoBailey1) August 15, 2018

The bottom line here is that nothing will ever replace the hard work, practice, and tinkering that you need to do in order to become really, really good at something.