Life is unfair.
Sorry but we had to start with the bad news. This site isn’t going to tell you how to shortcut your way from complete beginner to world-class in a year. Anyone who tells you that’s possible is lying, or cheating.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are, or how much work you put in. If you start training now you are never going to win Wimbledon. I’m sorry but you’re too late to start that journey – well, unless you’re four years old and have 15 years to train (in which case, “How are you reading this?!”)
But here’s the good part. You probably don’t actually want to be world-class. Trust me, the sacrifices and lifestyle that goes with it just aren’t worth it.
“I am just a hard-working fighter that lives a boring life as an individual. Everyone says, ‘I wish I was in your shoes.’ The hundreds of people that wish they were in my shoes don’t know the tenth of it. If they were in my shoes, they would cry like babies. They couldn’t handle it.”
– Mike Tyson (when asked what a day in his life is like)
What you probably want is to be better than almost everyone you know. You want both your friends and strangers to look at you and say: “Wow, that is really impressive. You’re amazing at that”.
You want to be above the ‘Threshold of Impressiveness’. The level where the average person thinks that you are an expert in your chosen field.
If you want to break through the threshold of impressiveness in almost any skill or sport, then this is the right site for you.
Better news yet is that anyone can do it. Innate talent and your previous life experience is irrelevant. All the research says that regardless of your starting point, if you put in enough practice you will see results.
Good Practice x Lots of Hours = Success
But how much is a lot of hours?
You may have heard of the 10,000 hour rule, made famous by Malcom Gladwell and widely accepted as true. The rule states that in most disciplines, practice trumps natural talent. That no matter who you are, if you put in 10,000 hours of good training you will become world-class.
That’s certainly a lot of hours. In fact it works out at about ten years of training full-time. Who has the time or money to do that? There have been dozens of books written about it, selling millions of copies but in all our research we could find only one person who has put it to the test: The Dan Plan.
Luckily for us the threshold of impressiveness doesn’t need anywhere near that amount.
The law of diminishing returns states that as you progress each additional hour you put in yields a lower return.
In a year you can get better than 99 out of every 100 people you meet on the street. But it may take another 9 years to beat that final person.
As you can see from the graph, the Expert in a Year challenge focuses on about 365 hours of good training, a level that is well above the threshold of impressiveness and where we believe the sweet spot of effort vs results lies.
There have been a lot of books and studies done on how to get good at something really quickly, or to short-cut your way to an impressive level. John Kaufman’s famous TED talk tells us that we can impress ourselves with our progress by putting in just 20 hours of training.
But that impressiveness is only relative: “You’re really good! For someone who has only just started”.
That is not the level we want to get to. We want the average person to look at us and think we are an expert in the skill.
Mastery is Tough, Mastery is Possible
To do the Expert in a Year challenge you need to nail both parts of the equation. ‘Good Practice’ and ‘Lots of Hours’. That is what this site is for.
- The Original ‘Expert in a Year’ Story
- How Much Does it Cost to Learn a Skill?
- This Guy Taught Himself to Backflip in 1 Week
- Learning How to Backflip on a Mountain Bike
- Seth Godin on ‘Getting Good
Proving it with table tennis
Throughout 2014 we put this concept into practice and I took up the Expert in a Year challenge in an attempt to master table tennis. I started as a complete novice and we filmed and uploaded my progress regularly throughout the year.
At the end we put together this compilation.
Did I break the impressiveness threshold? Well don’t just take my word for it. In February 2015 our video went viral and spawned a host of articles:
“Guy Goes From Total Novice Ping Pong Player To Expert In The Course Of One Year” – Digg
“Guy Plays Table Tennis Every Day For A Year, Proves That Practice Really Does Make (Almost) Perfect” – Huffington Post
“Guy Goes From Table Tennis Novice To Unstoppable Champ In 12 Months” – Techly
I wasn’t really an unstoppable champ. There are plenty of people who have trained for longer and could beat me with their eyes closed. But I got good enough that relative to the average person I was an unstoppable champ.