Why No Developer Should Count To 10,000 Hours

customized image, original via http://www.10khrs.co

The media has abused Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours idea. And it’s causing a real problem for people who are trying to learn how to code.


They’ve taken the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and be the best in the world at something, and abstracted it to contend that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be any good at something.

Yes, there is always going to be a special segment of people who naturally excel at something, like programming. But that doesn’t mean that you should throw out the idea of becoming a programmer just because you’re being told that you need 10,000 hours of practice to break into the field.

It’s simply not true.

image via http://www.butr.net/2013/08/25/macklemore-talks-mentality-values-new-album-and-more/
“Ten thousand hours I’m so damn close I can taste it.” — Macklemore

Thanks for that….But here are the facts.

You probably won’t become one of the best programmers in the world (one of the top 5–10 programmers out of 18.2 million developers in the world). I know I’m not. And I have spent 10,000 hours (5 years) working as a programmer in the industry. Having said that, I’d like to believe that I’m pretty good at programming.

There’s one huge mistake that so many aspiring programmers make.

They think that you need 10,000 hours of relevant practice before you can start a career in programming. This makes about as much sense as an episode of The Jersey Shore. And it doesn’t map to how the real world actually works.


Here’s why:

There is a massive disconnect between what is taught in universities and what is done on a daily basis at startups.

This is true in any field. But specific to Computer Science graduates, while they’ve spent time programming and working on theoretical concepts, the code that they have written is pretty far removed from what is practical in the real world today. So, for entry-level positions, 10,000 hours is certainly not a requirement.

So, how long does it take to become an entry-level developer? 10,000 hours? 5,000? 2,000? 1,000? 500?

The answer will be different for everyone, but your goal shouldn’t be to attain expert status and have all the answers. As a beginner, you’ll face challenges that you can’t figure out on your own. Don’t count the hours, hoping that something will magically change after a certain number of them.

That’s a worse idea than deciding to work for Bill Lumbergh.

image via https://memegenerator.net/instance/57941813

Don’t do that.

Instead, focus on what actually matters.

During the learning process, you’ll realize that everything is figure-outable. You’ll master the art of Google searches, and realize that most people have faced similar problems. You’ll understand enough to be able to teach yourself new concepts on the fly. Learning enough about coding to self-correct and get yourself back on track when problems arise is a difficult feat, but is not something that will take 10,000 hours.

Trust me.

You’ll find you’re ready to meet the Expectations of a Junior Developer very shortly after you become a Self-Sufficient Developer who is able to build things on their own.

Don’t count the hours — they don’t matter.

If you’re interested in digging a little deeper into this, you might want to check out a blog post that I wrote: “Does it really take 10,000 hours to learn how to code?”

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