Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise – 98

K Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

“The reason that most people don’t possess these extraordinary physical capabilities isn’t because they don’t have the capacity for them, but rather because they’re satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it. They live in the world of “good enough.” The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in,”
― K. Anders Ericsson

It’s not about talent. People are not gifted. They work hard for their abilities.

Find a mentor, teacher, masterful coach. This coach must be an excellent teacher and excellent his his craft.

The student must perform purposeful (deliberate) practice.

Must have a specific goal. Must learn one specific capability or technique at a time. You typically work on one small aspect of the skill when you practice.
The practice is focused, students must give it their full attention.
Immediate, specific feedback on how the student is doing is vital.
Must leave your comfort zone. If students aren’t pushing themselves beyond what is comfortable and familiar, they will not advance.
It’s for skills that other people have already figured out how to do and for which effective training techniques exist.
Most often the practice is solo practice.

The student requires a long time to get good. 10,000 hours as made famous by Malcolm Gladwell is not specifically required. You can get good with less than that, and you can continue to hone your skill well beyond this.

Specialized mental representations are highly complex and sophisticated representations of the perfect technique.
NLP has a saying, the map is not the territory. Your map is your mental representation of the world. You can also have a map of how to perform your craft. That map is only accurate when you are an expert in your field. If you do something perfectly correct, your map is perfectly accurate. Many hours are spent using deliberate practice to train your brain (and muscle memory) to align your map with reality.

Focus feedback and fix it the 3 f’s.
You must Focus intensely during your practice if you want to make it deliberate practice. You get feedback as to how you performed and what went wrong. Fix mistakes and repeat the process.
Forget it is another F used (not specifically) when you make a mistake that you regret. Buy the wrong stock, say the wrong thing, we all do it. Forgive yourself and forget it (F- Forgive and F-Forget are synonymous) meant to prevent you from negative self talk and self-punishment, which can only set you back and is counter-productive.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Don’t try harder, try different. The author uses doctors as an example. Many doctors don’t get better over time, often they get worse. The required element to get better is feedback, which most doctors don’t get. Once the patient is treated, they leave most likely to not return for the same problem.

It’s About Doing, Not Knowing. Many people get stuck in analysis paralysis – research it forever and never do. Reading about swimming is not the same as practicing swimming and timing your laps.
The ability to push forward with many hours of hard work isn’t based on fun or willpower. Willpower is limited in capacity. Fun is what you have when doing something casually.
Success leads to motivation that encourages the person to keep working towards their goal. In addition to success (achieving progress), motivation includes drive, grit, and personality disposition.

The key to helping a young person become world class is to teach them to motivate themselves. In the beginning the coach does most of the work, but the student must eventually become self-driven. Examples are Tiger Woods, Mozart, Serena and Venus Williams.
When starting out it’s critical that the student engage in deliberate practice for as long as they can focus, and no longer. This time grows as the student advances. The student needs to know the optimal practice session time. To exceed it is to fatigue and frustrate the student. In a fatigued state the student is much more likely to fail at enforcing the perfect model of practice and make mistakes, maybe learning the wrong way to do it.

There are some arguments that other factors outside deliberate practice contribute to success. I plan to do a future podcast to discuss these theories.

Simulators can provide great environments to train as long as the student knows the limitations of the simulator.

Deliberate practice means different things to different people. For basketball it could be doing thousands of free throws, for golf it’s club swings, for a musical instruments it’s playing scales. For something cerebral it’s reviewing and memorizing information – chess reviewing positions of pieces, computer programmer/operator it’s hands on keyboard doing procedures, pilots is flying simulators and logging hours. For doctors it’s performing surgeries. Salsa dancing – mastering fundamental techniques, males memorizing turn patterns, ladies following technique.

For physical it’s knowing what to do, when, and how. Lots of “muscle memory”.

Chess players of higher IQ had a slight advantage in the beginnings of learning chess but it is the ones who have a lower IQ who puled out ahead later as they practiced more. This leads to a discussion of what is IQ? IQ tests are specific in what they test for. There is a concept of multiple intelligences.

Roadblocks to deliberate practice: lack of resources (time, money, etc), not seeing the benefits from the work (not progressing), nurturing environment absent, unrealistic expectations (misconceptions), poor coach, lack of grit/drive.

In order to master a physical skill, one memorizes it, tweaks it, then puts it on autopilot. From that point forward it can be called up effortlessly and executed to perfection automatically. Each individual technique has this cycle. For some sports there may be hundreds or even thousands of techniques to master this way.

Ericsson notes that not all fields have the highly developed practice techniques that one finds in such areas as musical performance, chess, dance or gymnastics. Strictly speaking, it is difficult to engage in deliberate practice without such techniques. Nevertheless, it is possible to come close if you first identify the absolute best in your field and then carefully study how they trained themselves to become so highly skilled.

Ericson used memorizing sequences of numbers as an example in his book. There are techniques for remembering long strings of numbers. Those who used those techniques were able to remember many 100-200 numbers. The better the technique, the more numbers could be remembered. A runner remembered numbers as run times. There is a technique for remembering things using a “memory palace” where you pick a building you know well and imagine seeing objects in rooms as you walk through the building. Basically the numbers are translated into a more memorable pattern using a repeatable system. Like how some ads spell a word for a phone number i.e. 1-800 PLUMBER.

Ben Franklin was not an expert chess player but he was an expert at writing. Ericson used Franklin as an example of amateur work vs. the deliberate practice of a professional.

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