10 000 hour rule debunked again

This 5-minute article suggests a few simple but powerful mental tools for getting more out of life and investment research efforts, avoiding waste and suboptimization


Some become world champions in just 1 000 hours, some never

First you must realize, there is no spoon 10 000 hour rule

there is no 10 000 hour rule

Please e-mail me at mikael.syding@gmail.com if you don’t recognize the picture

The 10 000 hour rule was debunked a long time ago, specifically when Donald Thomas, who commenced high-jumping in 2006, won the world championship in Osaka just a year later in 2007 (clearing 2.35m), without proper high-jumping shoes. The first time he ever tried high-jumping, on a bet, in January 2006, he cleared 2.13m in ordinary tennis shoes.

Actually, the 10 000 hour rule was a deliberate misinterpretation of data. The original research only showed the following:

  • if you have the genes
  • and the ambition
  • you may become a master in your area of expertise
  • if you practice between 3 000 and 30 000 hours
  • and then there are outliers, like Donald, who shows you could train even less, given a certain set of genes

i.e. a completely meaningless and useless result.

the Donald Sprezzaturian retarded hf manager

The Donald


Don’t be that guy throwing the 10k hour rule around as if it meant something.

If Donald had, he might not even have bothered with the high jump, and this little man would have been world champion instead:

stefan holm no 10 000 hour man

Stefan Holm next to Patrik Sjöberg

Stefan Holm (181cm, 5″11  1/4) trained more and better than any other high jumper in the noughties and jumped 2.30m or more 119 times, but, e.g., never 2.42m like Patrik Sjöberg in the middle of the photo above did.

Sure, you’ll get better, the more you practice, but there is nothing guaranteeing becoming a master, no matter how much you practice. And, if lucky, you could get there much faster.

There is no 10 000 hour rule


The opposite of spending your life on just one endeavour

-I’m a trysexual, I’ll try anything once

The singularity is near

The singularity is near

Okay, I wouldn’t go that far, not in horizontal hip-hop, and not as a general rule either.

However, there is a 20-hour ‘rule’ that is immensely more useful than both the 1-hour and the 10 000-hour dogmas:

If you focus and practice intelligently for 20 hours on learning a new skill, you will become “quite proficient”

In 20 hours you can become good enough to enjoy your new skill, good enough to keep learning more on your own and good enough to know if it’s something you have a talent for and would enjoy developing even more.

If you’re interested in how to acquire a new skill in 20 hours, check out Josh Kaufman’s TED talk from March 2013. 


Studio 50:1


1 50 efficiency principle Sprezzaturian retarded hedge fund manager 2

1% effort for 50% of the outcome



Sport jocks sometimes claim to “give it 110%”. Now that’s just retarded.

And it’s not due to a lack of education. They typically got the expression from their (gym) teachers. Anyway, never aim for 110%. You will be disappointed if you do.



Google famously (used to) let it’s employees spend one day a week on any project they like. That’s 20% goofing around to let creativity flow, and maybe come up with significant improvements and business ideas.

I think Google has restricted the extent of its experimentation hours lately. They are still hanging on to the principle though. And so should you. Just because you’re grown up, doesn’t mean you have nothing more to learn. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The older you get, the more you need to make a deliberate effort, to keep novelty and personal growth in your life.


1% effort for 50% of the outcome

Whereas 1 hour probably is more than enough for most of broadening your bedside horizons, and 20 hours is good for trying out what skills match up with your preferences and talent… I’d say, if you put in 100 hours (just 1% of the infamous 10 000 hours) you will leave most of mankind behind in that area, often achieving about half the level of a professional.

Call it the 1% effort system. People will keep referring to Gladwell’s 10khr, and so can you. But rather than go for the full Monty, aim for just 1% of the 10k, i.e. 100 hours of focused and deliberate effort to kind of “master” a new discipline.

You won’t win any championships but you’ll become pretty good at most things you try; typically much, much better than any beginner. Languages, sports, programming, design, sales, psychology, you name it. 

Since you have a lot of 100 hour chunks at your disposal, you can become an instant expert in hundreds of useful or entertaining skills. If nothing else, you can find out where your talents are and what satisfies you the most, rather than arbitrarily choosing chess, golf or tennis and end up wasting 10 000 hours on something you don’t really enjoy and won’t win at anyway.

In 100 hours you’ll acquire most useful skills regarding long term value investing, but you’ll still not be done by 10 000 hours

A sell-side analyst spends 10 000 hours per large cap company he covers during the course of his career. You could catch up on the essentials in just 5, and become somewhat of an expert in 20, not to mention a 100

Even more importantly, trying new things, practicing them wholeheartedly will increase your brain plasticity; hence future learning of other skills will be easier.

It’s fun too. Being a beginner is fun. There are no expectations, no anxiety, just a steep learning curve and a lot of hilarious failed attempts.

Commit and quit. Give it your all (yes, 100%, or close to it, but not for long, not for 100% of your life). Focus! Be serious. Give it one hour, just one hour. Then one more, just one more.

If you’re not completely hooked after 20 hours, try something else. The brilliant thing with the 20-hour system is that you can try so many things before deciding what should stick. If it’s useful and enjoyable enough, keep going until you get to a 100 hours.

The 1:50 rule in practice

Last summer I read the unabridged 2400 page book The Count of Monte-Cristo in French to improve my French.

I spent about 100 hours on learning the basics of Portuguese on DuoLingo last spring.

For no other reason than exercising my brain.

However, if you want it to really stick, it’s advisable to have a specific use for any skill you set out learning.

Commit and quit. Restart.

Fair disclosure: I quit both this year’s handstanding and side split efforts after just a few hours, due to lack of interest and slight injuries. Perhaps next year. 

I spent somewhere between 20 and 100 hours on Khan Academy’s math section, but now I’m taking a pause. I’m not sure how much time I put into Python and Javascript on Codecademy and Khan but probably around 25.

What I really should focus my next 20-100 hours on is online marketing skills, such as web design, SEO and writing copy. There are always new things to learn, new skills to attempt.


Working out, the 1% turned into 2%

I’ve tried several martial arts, tennis, volley ball, football etc. Martial arts is the only thing that managed to keep me interested long term, but my work schedule forced me to quit.

I took up weight lifting (again) in 1996 to keep in shape “until I could get back to martial arts” but I never did, and now I’m hooked by the iron instead.

I’ve typically always spent 1-2% of my time working out (more before I turned 22), and since I retired I’ve stabilized at around 2%.

I work out 4 hours a week, in practice 2% of the available time, doing mostly heavy compound exercises with free weights. In fact, most of that time is resting between sets, which I spend reading and writing.

I don’t do any specific cardio, except for a quick warm-up on the tread mill before working out.

I’m by no means a bodybuilder as such, but I am quite fit, despite sitting at an office desk for 20 years and eating whatever I like, including a lot of french fries, ice cream and drinking my fair share or more of alcohol.

Cooling down after a sauna:

post sauna cooling down

The picture above is the result of a 1% effort that got me hooked and expanded to 2%. By focusing on the most effective exercises, I look and feel athletic at 43, despite only going to the gym for about 90 minutes every second day (including 5-10 minutes of mobility exercises every fourth day).

There are no 110%, 100% or such efforts in my diet either. I fast (16:8) and I drink fish oil. That’s it. I still bench 300+ lbs, I haven’t had a cold in 9 years and my Omega 6:3 balance is exceptionally low at 2.0. 


Summary – Hard made easy:

  • Forget about the 10 000 hour myth. There is no spoon.
  • Try just one more skill, then one more, for a limited amount of time
  • Commit and quit. Don’t get stuck, don’t force feed yourself skills you don’t like or need
  • Give it 1% and enjoy half of the master level – the Sprezzaturian way
  • Even if you don’t use the skill per se, your learning ability is improved or maintained


Did you like the article? Share it with a friend or your social network. Tweet about it. And if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter and eBook, please do. There is a new eBook in the works – with hundreds of tips and tricks like the “1:50” and “Just one more” rules.

7 Swift ways to deal with hate and coriander

This article deals with cilantro (coriander) hate, as well as haters and hating in general, and specifically hating in internet (equity) chat rooms.


Shake it off

Taylor Swift makes the point abundantly clear: Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate. Period.

taylor swift hater

If you don’t know what I’m referring to. Check out these 10 seconds of Swift’s Shake it Off here on YouTube.

No matter how much I like Taylor Swift, I think she’s wrong. Some haters can be turned, even yourself. The rest however, there TS has a point: shake it off

in Europe, incl. the U.K., cilantro is known as coriander, or by its Latin name:  Coriandrum sativum


Executive Summary: My message on hate

  1. Don’t hate – turn your hate into a challenge and a lesson instead
  2. Cilantro haters can be turned – albeit maybe not all (Gastropod)
  3. Follow Dale Carnegie’s advice on how to not only avoid hating but how to actively turn haters around
  4. Celebrate second careers: brilliant Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lopez parallel professions, as well as more mediocre outcomes (ehrm, Britney Spears, ehrm)
  5. If somebody is wrong on the internet, just walk away. You can’t save them all
  6. Shake it off. Think of something else. Sometimes there is nothing to learn, no prospect of turning, just an intellectual parasite or troll to shake off
  7. Don’t confuse “not hating” for “not executing revenge”. Do exact your revenge; 3 to 1 is reasonable (Retard’s Notebook “Fairness Floor: 3 Lefts Make A Right – May 29, 2015”)




Cilantro hate

The latest episode of Gastropod deals with the special circle in hell reserved for Coriandrum sativum.

I can’t remember the first time I tasted coriander, but I do remember when I finally singled out what was once again ruining my food. It was in Cancun, Mexico in 2003, and the tomato salsa that came with the nachos was simply inedible. Somebody must have had cheap soap in it, I thought. When we ordered a second round I tried to understand why I hated it and my girlfriend didn’t.

Finally, she came up with the word “coriander”, and once I had that word at the ready, I kept asking about it at restaurants. Thus, I finally got to know why I usually liked all kinds of food, but sometimes I just couldn’t stand some dishes. I was 31 at the time.

I’ve been an informed hater ever since, i.e. for more than a decade. I’ve even become secretly angry with friends that used coriander in their food, since I thought it had to be obvious (hater mentality) a lot of people wouldn’t be able to stand it.

There actually is a genetic predisposition for cilantro hate, 3 distinct genes that together do Satan’s soapy culinary handiwork. I learned that much later but easily took it to heart that around 5% loathe the taste and smell of coriander – and I was one of them.

According to Gastropod some people are said to have been turned from absolutely despising every aspect of coriander… to loving it. To someone with coriander contempt it sounds about as likely as drinking perfume or eating a bar of soap would ever be agreeable.

cilantro hate Swift Sprezzaturian


The turning

And, yet, I was turned about a year ago.

At 42 years old, a certified cilantro hater, set in my ways in all respects, I became a coriander cordial, a cilantro lover.

Now I want it in large doses on everything, not least Vietnamese spring rolls with salmon, or just hot-smoked salmon with mango and fresh coriander.

This time it was another girlfriend that kept insisting on using coriander in her cooking, and sometimes my food was ever so slightly contaminated. Gradually I started tolerating that, albeit still not liking it.

But somewhere along the way, through adding dried coriander in small amounts in casseroles, and just feeling the smell of fresh coriander next to me, then masking tiny amounts in my own food with plenty of chili and lemon, I found myself starting to kind of hate-liking it – and sooner or later truly loving it in and of itself.

If I could be turned, so can you. And that goes for so much more than cilantro.


What do you hate? Why?

Cross-fitters? Soccer fans? Immigrants? Your boss?

I’ve got one tip for you: Ask yourself exactly why you hate what you hate? Why do you care at all?

Does it affect you physically? If not, just shake it off, or even better, put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps they had a flat tire earlier in the day, or their parents died. How would you behave, what would you do? (if you wanted to win a cross-fit competition, e.g.). There is almost always something to learn from studying whatever grinds your gears.

I used to be a hater. One of the worst. Hating on kipping pull-ups, on people stopping in tight passages or after escalators, not boarding a plane effectively, politicians, journalists, beards, moustaches, cigarette smoke, “stupid” views and so on… But now I have a hard time even coming up with examples of things to hate.

There is one thing, though, I never hated, not even during my darkest years: Alternative/second careers.

Selena Gomez Hate Sprezzaturian

I have always celebrated both brilliant second acts such as Selena Gomez, Jared Leto and Jennifer Lopez, as well as failed alternative attempts such as Britney Spears’ movie career. Who, if not a successful actor, lawyer, hedge fund manager or singer, should go ahead and just do something they like? Who cares if it’s “good”, if it sells or if he could have made more, having more status, more fame if continued with his premier profession?

Investing one’s scarce resources is about getting the most out of life, and money is but a very small part, whereas sleep, happiness, meaningful relations etc. is much, much more important.

note for traders: don’t keep that share or trade, if it hurts your sleep or mental health

Life is not screens and bank accounts; life is life.


Carnegie and chat rooms

If Dale Carnegie had been alive today, I imagine he would have loved turning chat room haters into believers. Or would he? They are so many, and there are always new haters, new straw men with your face on getting pummeled somewhere on the internet.

Would even the nicest man in history (Dale) have managed the aggressive onslaught any kind of rational thought, independent idea or criticism has to endure, when expressed in the cheer leading cum hooliganism atmosphere that flourishes on the internet in general – and not least in story stock chat rooms?



Online stock forum hate fading

I actually set out writing this article with the idea of chronicling my recent experiences with discussing Swedish story stocks online.

(3D printing, and fingerprint sensors respectively. If you are not from Sweden, beware, both companies, Arcam and Fingerprint cards, will dominate the world in just a few years, according to some very informed investors [ehrm, not me]. Please note that the entire parenthesis is meant to drip of sarcasm)

It is a funny story, and there are a lot of details to cut and paste from various chat rooms, tweets etc. Not least are the (deliberate) misunderstandings, and history rewrites hilarious in retrospect.

Some truly retarded rants about “world domination”, “not understanding”, me “living in a cellar in a house on the wrong side of the tracks in a small town” etc. are gems that really warrant a larger audience. I myself pulled the “Your mother” joke, and got back a very serious “my mother is dead” comment. Scene.

din mamma

Nevertheless, I don’t think recounting the facts or the arguments would serve any higher purpose than just setting the record straight and give me a point of reference for future haters. Pure indulgence. For you, it probably would only amount to a slight smile, at most.

In a Hofstadter (#4 Gödel Escher Bach) recursive, self-referential, kind of way, this just proved my point. I wrote about hate and not hating, and when trying to tell a specific story about story stock criticism hate, I lost interest, since all hate dissipated before I got to the point.


Hanlon vs Occam

The simplest path, the razor cut, might be to assume evil, hatred and malice, but, according to Hanlon, you should never dismiss ignorance or stupidity as the root cause. In a similar fashion my online equity investing ‘opponents’ perhaps would benefit from considering if there is something worth noting in my method and assumptions- rather than huddling ever tighter in a confirmation bias circle jerk.

Owners of stock appreciating manifold should take a pause for contemplation from their speeding down the dollar highway…

…Instead they tend to stick their heads out the window, roaring of hubris. Coincidentally, that’s exactly how students from my business school were depicted in a national newspaper article at the height of the IT bubble.

On my best days, even hatred completely devoid of thought and meaning can trigger learning. At the very least I mull over how I ever would go about finding common ground to even get a chance to try to explain my point.


Summary: don’t hate but do exact revenge

First, regarding revenge, my foremost life principle is Ahimsa, non-violence. My second principle is “if you have different principles and use them against me, I’ll (happily) take your principles out on you”:

  • first, once to even out the score
    • e.g., taking back what was stolen
  • then, twice to give the principle back to you
    • two eyes for an eye, if you assaulted me
  • finally, three times for good measure
    • as a lesson, and just revenge and deterrence for all who like to initiate asymmetric principle breaking, you’ll get some well-deserved asymmetry right back
    • hit me once and I’ll hit you thrice; steal a dollar and I’ll rip three from you

ahimsa hate

When you feel hate, break it down, analyze the feeling and its root causes and try to 1) learn something and 2) turn the situation around and find common ground with whatever started it

Try cilantro every now and then until you like it. By the way, cilantro actually doesn’t taste. Genetic cilantro haters can’t even identify the taste if holding their noses. Right after they release their grip on the nostrils, they feel violated: “What did you do to me?!”

Sometimes, however, there just is no common ground at all, nothing to learn, just an endless stream of trolls, morons and haters. Then walk away, shake it off, and remember it as a fun story in your past.

If haters hate where you are not present, did they ever hate at all?

From Eric Barker, based on research*: when you suppress your feelings, the encounter gets worse for the angry person, too. Instead, reappraise (“They are having a bad day”) and distract yourself (any intellectual activity)

(Butler et al., 2003, English, John, & Gross, 2013; Gross & John, 2003; Srivastava, Tamir, McGonigal, John, & Gross, 2009, etc. Read more here)


Final words: Check out my eBook if you haven’t done so yet.

One of the many rules of investing I live by is “Don’t hate” – although it has been difficult when it comes to central bankers.

My book is poorly written and bizarrely ‘designed’, but also a page turner, pretty funny and really useful (in terms of investor psychology) I’ve heard.

Just sign up for my weekly newsletter and download the book – or just read the first page of the copy you might already be sitting on.

More are coming – and you don’t want to miss those.