With blatant disregard for the public benefits of motivational idioms, researchers have concluded that practice does not, necessarily, make perfect. A study of violinists found that merely good players practised as much as, if not more than, better players, leaving other factors such as quality of tuition, learning skills and perhaps natural talent to account for the difference.
The work is the latest blow to the 10,000-hour rule, which means that enough practice will make an expert of anyone.
Brooke Macnamara, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, believes practice is less of a driver.
"Once you get to the highly skilled groups, practice stops accounting for the difference. Everyone has practised a lot and other factors are at play in determining who goes on to that super-elite level," she said. "The factors depend on the skill being learned: in chess it could be intelligence or working memory, in sport it may be how efficiently a person uses oxygen. To complicate matters further, one factor can drive another. A child who enjoys playing the violin, for example, may be happy to practise and be focused on the task because they do not see it as a chore."