The 10,000 Hour Rule by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell has a new book, Outliers: The Story of Success (Little- Brown, 2008). Chapter 2 is titled, The 10,000 Hour Rule. The theme of this chapter is that it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to get really, really good at something. It also takes luck, talent, and opportunity. However, luck, talent and opportunity are not enough. " '...10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert - in anything," writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. 'In study after study, composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.'" (p.40)

Malcom Gladwell provides several examples. I'll share one with you now, the Beatles. "Lennon and McCartney first started playing together in 1957, 7 years prior to landing in America...In 1960, while they were still just a struggling high school rock band, they were invited to play in Hamburg, Germany...And what was so special about Hamburg?...It was the sheer amount of time the band was forced to play..." often eight hours a day, seven days a week. "All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half...an estimated twelve hundred times...They were no good onstage when they went there and they were very good when they came back.'" (p.50)

Stuttering is a complex phenomenon and there is alot for a client to learn. When I began this private practice in 1991, I set out to provide intensive speech therapy. However, I discovered that very, very few clients made the time for or had the interest in this kind of committment. Consequently, I've learned to "meet the client where his is" as they say. I go with the client's level of motivation and do the best I can to provide information and guidance as to how to make speech changes given life's real constraints. Yet regardless of how much we understand the physiology of stuttering and the process of change during a session, it is actually DOING THE CHANGE outside the speech room that results in therapeutic success. I refer to Malcolm Gladwells' book in this blog to illustrate the importance of practice. 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.'

In stuttering therapy, we are left with the question: Practice what? If a client were to practice 10,000 hours for speech change, what exactly would he be practicing? Here is when knowledge of stuttering and client preference become important. We know that stuttering is more than speech interruptions. It is also negative emotional reaction in a variety of forms. In the book Stuttering (Pro-Ed, 1997), Starkweather & Givens-Ackerman write, "First, most of the behaviors of stuttering are contained in the reactions of the child to the problem...Second, these reactions are accumulated through a development process that is unique to each person...there is no single etiology, but as many etiologies as there are stories of stuttering development." (p.24)

Consequently, it is the client's story that will reveal the focus of practice. For some clients, it will be overcoming avoidances - day after day of courageous attempts to initiate conversation, say those feared words and sounds, seek ways to change a stuttering mindset. For others, it may be speech-motor practice to find and rehearse a new way of sound production, including the carryover of speech tools. For still others, it may include learning social-langauge skills, coping with temperamental predispositions such as extreme sensitivity, unloading negative emotions, adopting a healthier lifestyle or becoming active in an NSA local chapter. In any case, it will take time and effort, time and effort, and more time and effort.

It's January and I've joined the hordes of adults joining gyms. I've made it to Planet Fitness about 3-4 days a week so far. At first, it was actually scary. The stark warehouse-like setting filled with machines was intimidating. Then I felt silly: an overweight woman in her 50's consulting a young personal trainer probably in his early 20's about designing a fitness program. Now, the novelty has worn thin and I just plain dislike going to the gym. I growl every time I drive into the parking lot. But I've been trying to slim down for 13 years and I finally realize it is going to take a much larger chunk of my life than I ever anticipated just to lose a few pounds!

Best to all of us looking for change. :)


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.