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10000 Hours

– Vinay

People sometimes ask me, why is doing a PhD considered so hard? Why does it take years?

The first rule of success is that there is no short cut. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in Outliers, successful people got that way by really working their butts off. He suggests 10000 hours of work as the minimum necessary to become an expert at anything. This is not ten thousand hours from saying “oh, I think I will learn this now” and then checking back in a year and a month later. No, this is six hundred thousand minutes of work put in first hand at full unwavering maniacal intensity. And even that may not be enough if circumstances don’t cooperate, but there is no getting away from the fact that getting good at anything takes a huge amount of really hard work.

So, suppose you spend, on average, six hours a day studying up on your subject of interest, 42 hours a week, 180 hours a month, 2200 hours a year, it should take you about four-and-a-half to five years before you can convince your advisor (and your thesis committee) that you are an expert in the field. That is why PhDs take such a long time.

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