One of the major premises of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, is that “the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours” of practice.
Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson studied violinists at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music, as well as amateur and professional pianists. Their research suggests that “once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works.” The people at the very top don’t just work harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.
According to the neurologist Daniel Levitin, “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, ..., this number comes up again and again.”
Examples of famous people whose success can be said to conform to the rule include at least Mozart, Bill Joy (co-founder of Sun Microsystems), Bill Gates, and The Beatles. I personally know of at least one amazingly good programmer who has been programming for at least 10,000 hours.
If there is no substitute for hard work even for geniuses, what does that say for us mere mortals?