The Path to Mastery: The Power of Repetition and Practice

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the “10,000-hour rule,” asserting that the key to achieving true expertise in any skill is simply practicing, albeit correctly, for at least 10,000 hours. David Epstein’s fascinating new book The Sports Gene argues that the ten-thousand-hour idea must be average.

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson looked at students studying violin at the elite Music Academy of West Berlin. I was interested in the general finding: the best violinists, on average and over time, practiced much more than the good ones. In other words, within a group of talented people, what separated the best from the rest was how long and how intently they worked.

I can personally attest to the fact that I am still learning. I am working on a project to review a photographer’s raw photos from 2007 to 2024. There are easily 300,000 images that I am culling through and then picking the best ones to edit.

This process is very similar to when I played trumpet regularly. In college, I practiced many hours outside of East Carolina Jazz Band class and as part of the marching band.

I didn’t just practice the music I would be playing but also practice books.

The best thing that happened for me early in my professional career was working at the Hickory Daily Record. I was shooting every day and processing it over and over and over. Before that, working for the school paper in college, I would come even close to what one week was at the Hickory Daily Record in a month at best.

So here is my tip: Repetition, and lots of it, will improve your skills more than anything else.

So shoot all you can and practice, practice, practice.