How many 10k hours do you have left?

It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. A generalisation, of course. And here’s another: As people age they stop believing they have time to master new things. I think this is bollocks. I am an advocate for always learning and mastering new things.

Urged on by my recent revelation that I can now code [!] (I’m building a responsive website at the moment) I thought it would be interesting to calculate exactly how many sets of 10,000 hours’ spare time we all have left. I.e. How many things you have time to become an expert at. Clearly, these are generalisations, but they should at the very least give you some confidence.

If you’re 30 years old, you have 55,296 spare hours left (you can become an expert in over five new things)
Even if you’re 50, you have 38,016 spare hours left (that’s nearly four new things you can master in your lifetime)

Here’s the maths (explained underneath in more detail):

I based this on the UK’s average life expectancy of 79.5 years, and a retirement age of 65.
‘Spare time’ was then calculated for pre-retirement and post-retirement years…

For pre-retirement years, I’ve based it on spending two hours per weekday and four hours per weekend day. Post-retirement, I based it on spending six hours a day for six days of the week. I realise this is a lot of time, but it requires some obsessiveness to really master things. I have allowed time for family and friends and for both pre- and post-retirement, I allowed 4 weeks’ off for holidays.

I haven’t taken into account illnesses. But these are just ballparks.

You can work out how many things you have time to become an expert in by replacing the y in the equation with your age:

No excuses. It’s not too late to learn. Go and master something new.


Update: James Pryor made a calculator :)

8 comments
  • Isaac Pinnock

    Let’s just hope that the speed at which you can learn is a constant throughout your life and not something that tapers off dramatically as you get older! Wonder whether there’s a point in your life when you’ve accumulated enough life skills that you can learn faster but after that you’ve reached ‘peak learning’ and then it’s a slow decline?

  • http://www.nowincolour.com/ Andy

    I did think about adding in an ageing variable. Probably also depends on what sort of skills you’re trying to master.

  • Michael Fruen

    You’re learning to code web apps and you have this fantastically shareable and inspirational algorithm that only needs one number plugged into it? Good sir, please build a web-based ‘expertise calculator’ before someone else does – they’re really fun mini-projects!

  • http://www.twitter.com/bennesvig Ben Nesvig

    It could possibly be shorter if the things you’re mastering relate to each other. With each new thing you wouldn’t be starting from scratch.

  • http://www.twitter.com/bennesvig Ben Nesvig

    It could possibly be shorter if the things you’re mastering relate to each other. With each new thing you wouldn’t be starting from scratch.

  • http://www.nowincolour.com/ Andy

    Not sure my coding skills go quite that far yet Michael ;) One step at a time! Happy to repost here if someone else builds one though.

  • http://www.nowincolour.com/ Andy

    Hi Ben. I daren’t dissect this too much. It’s pseudo science and the whole thing would crumble. The post really serves just as a reminder that we have time to be brilliant at things we’re yet to try. But everyone likes an equation don’t they.

  • Rajagopalan C

    It pepped me up. thanks