Have you ever seen someone pick up on something rather quickly? Or have you been called a fast learner? Gladwell said that he “couldn’t find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did” (39). This sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? Of course it does because some people are simply better without as much practice.
In an article for Skeptic’s Magazine, Michael Shermer tells a story about a high jumper who is one such case. Shermer, talking about the jumper, says “just two months after he first heard about high jumping. There he finished 4th in a field of world-class jumpers” (57). How could this be possible if ten thousand hours really is a “magic number of greatness?” Ten Thousand hours is a lot, and that’s probably why Gladwell thought it made so much sense. In fact, it’s a little over a year of just practice time. Which means of course that you can’t fit ten thousand hours into two months, short of a flux capacitor. This means that the jumper in this story seems to be the “natural” who Gladwell doesn’t exist.
There are many stories of child prodigies – the kids who have remarkable talent at an extremely young age. Here is a five year old playing the piano in quite an impressive way. Ten thousand hours is simply too much for a five year old. It really is more than a fifth of his entire life. Children like these must be learning at an accelerated rate for their skill to be possible at such a young age.
At this point you should be piecing together that fast learners must exist in the world, regardless of how misleading Gladwell puts it in his book.