The 10,000 hour concept was made famous by Malcolm Gladwell. Want to be an expert? Put 10,000 hours of time into your craft.
The problem? It's not true (or at least not complete). Time is not the best indicator of the quality of your skill set.
The bestselling book Influencer by my friends at Vital Smarts outlines a much better way of thinking about performance. Here are the two keys to success:
Step #1: Focus. Great performers often spend less time 'working' on their skillset than the mediocre. Excellent performance is the result of focused effort. Time is a byproduct of attention. If you are distracted, you aren't getting better. In other words, that quick check of Facebook is costing you more than 'just a second.' Focused effort is extremely exhausting. One hour of focused effort is worth six distracted hours of practice.
Step #2: Process not outcome. Focus is critical, but it must be on the right things. Mediocre performers focus on outcome. 'I want to be a scratch golfer.' Great performers focus on process. 'My wrists break improperly as I move into my backswing.'
I hear this difference often in the speaking world. Some people have crazy ideas when it comes to what makes people effective. 'Just speak from your heart.' 'Do what feels natural.' 'You've either got it or you don't.'
The best communicators in the world know the end game (an audience inspired), but aim for it by focusing on specific tactics that will help them get there. They aim to pause after their joke to let the audience digest it. They dissect shifts in volume, pitch, and pace to determine when they can make adjustments to increase their impact . They ask whether a particular analogy is the most helpful one possible.
If you want to be excellent at your craft, you must focus on process and allow the outcome to be the result.