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In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell published Outliers — and the “10,000-Hour Rule” became a household name. In his book, Gladwell examines what he identifies as the road to success by analyzing the career trajectories of several people, including Bill Gates and members of the Beatles.

The conclusion?

Rising to the top of your field is the result of about 10,000 hours of practice, provided you are practising correctly.

Over the years, experts have tested the theory with varying results.  A 2014 paper out of Princeton found that deliberate practice only accounted for 1 to 26 per cent difference in performance, depending on the domain. 

Author Anders Ericsson, author of a 2013 study on deliberate practice, argues there’s no “magic number” for achieving success and it varies depending on the person.

Now, a new study attempts to quantify other qualities that lead to expert-dom.

Based on the findings, the “decisive factors” that contribute to success are:

  • Focused training
  • Passion
  • Grit
  • Positive mindset
  • Mentors

“A key concept in this context is to find an area that you’re interested in. That’s how we can light the spark,” Hermundur Sigmundsson at NTNU’s Department of Psychology, said in a statement.

“You need a passion for what you’re doing. You have to burn for it. In addition, you need a positive mindset, an attitude of ‘I can achieve this.'”

And when things get tough, you’re more likely to succeed if you stick with it.

“Passion sets the direction of your arrow, but grit determines the strength and size of the arrow,” says Sigmundsson.

Researchers interviewed 126 participants for their study, which appears in New Ideas in Psychology.