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Flashcards in PEAK Deck (108):

Myth of the Ten Thousand Hour Rule

these books leave the impression that heartfelt desire and hard work alone will lead to improved performance—“Just keep working at it, and you’ll get there”—and this is wrong. The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.”


Usual Approach to Practice

the goal is to reach a point at which everything becomes automatic and an acceptable performance is possible with relatively little thought, so that you can just relax and enjoy the game.”
But there is one very important thing to understand here: once you have reached this satisfactory skill level and automated your performance—your driving, your tennis playing, your baking of pies—you have stopped improving. People often misunderstand this because they assume that the continued driving or tennis playing or pie baking is a form of practice and that if they keep doing it they are bound to get better at it, slowly perhaps, but better nonetheless.


Result of the Usual Approach to Practice

“But no. Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement. ”


Purposeful Practice Goal Example

Purposeful practice has well defined, specific goals:

Our hypothetical music student would have been much more successful with a practice goal something like this: “Play the piece all the way through at the proper speed without a mistake three times in a row.” Without such a goal, there was no way to judge whether the practice session had been a success.”
Push yourself to increase whatever you want to increase from last session


Purposeful Practice as Kaizen

Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal. If you’re a weekend golfer and you want to decrease your handicap by five strokes, that’s fine for an overall purpose, but it is not a well-defined, specific goal that can be used effectively for your practice.

Break it down and make a plan: What exactly do you need to do to slice five strokes off your handicap? One goal might be to increase the number of drives landing in the fairway. That’s a reasonably specific goal, but you need to break it down even more: What exactly will you do to increase the number of successful drives? You will need to figure out why so many of your drives are not landing in the fairway and address that by, for instance, working to reduce your tendency to hook the ball. How do you do that? An instructor can give you advice “on how to change your swing motion in specific ways. And so on. The key thing is to take that general goal—get better—and turn it into something specific that you can work on with a realistic expectation of improvement.”


Purposeful Practice is Focused

You seldom improve much without giving the task your full attention.”


Purposeful Practice Involves Feedback:

“You have to know whether you are doing something right and, if not, how you’re going wrong. “Generally speaking, no matter what you’re trying to do, you need feedback to identify exactly where and how you are falling short. Without feedback—either from yourself or from outside observers—you cannot figure out what you need to improve on or how close you are to achieving your goals.”


Purposeful Practice Requires Getting out of One’s Comfort Zone

This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve. The amateur pianist who took half a dozen years of lessons when he was a teenager but who for the past thirty years has been playing the same set of songs in exactly the same way over and over again may have accumulated ten thousand hours of “practice” during that time, but he is no better at playing the piano than he was thirty years ago. Indeed, he’s probably gotten worse.”

He never got out of his comfort zone, never put in the hours of purposeful practice it would take to improve. He was like the pianist playing the same songs the same way for thirty years. That is a recipe for stagnation, not improvement.
Getting out of your comfort zone means trying to do something that you couldn’t do before. Sometimes you may find it relatively easy to accomplish that new thing, and then you keep pushing on. But sometimes you run into something that stops you cold and it seems like you’ll never be able to do it. Finding ways around these barriers is one of the hidden keys to purposeful practice.”


When you hit a Roadblack

Generally the solution is not “try harder” but rather “try differently.” It is a technique issue, in other words.”

“improve up to a point, get stuck, look around for a different approach that could help him get past the barrier, find it, and then improve steadily until another barrier arose.


The Road to Mastery is Not Easy

“One caveat here is that while it is always possible to keep going and keep improving, it is not always easy. Maintaining the focus and the effort required by purposeful practice is hard work, and it is generally not fun.”


Purposeful Practice in a Nutshell

Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation.


Mental Models as the Path to Performance

As we shall see, the key to improved mental performance of almost any sort is the development of mental structures that make it possible to avoid the limitations of short-term memory and deal effectively with large amounts of information at once.”


How Physical Activity Changes the brain

when a body system—certain muscles, the cardiovascular system, or something else—is stressed to the point that homeostasis can no longer be maintained, the body responds with changes that are intended to reestablish homeostasis.”


The Effect of Pushing Yourself

But there is a catch: once the compensatory changes have occurred—new muscle fibers have grown and become more efficient, new capillaries have grown, and so on—the body can handle the physical activity that had previously stressed it. It is comfortable again. The changes stop. So to keep the changes happening, you have to keep upping the ante: run farther, run faster, run uphill. If you don’t keep pushing and pushing and pushing some more, the body will settle into homeostasis, albeit at a different level than before, and you will stop improving.”

This explains the importance of staying just outside your comfort zone: you need to continually push to keep the body’s compensatory changes coming, but if you push too far outside your comfort zone, you risk injuring yourself and actually setting yourself back.”


How the Brain Responds to Training

Regular training leads to changes in the parts of the brain that are challenged by the training. The brain adapts to these challenges by rewiring itself in ways that increase its ability to carry out the functions required by the challenges.”

“the cognitive and physical changes caused by training require upkeep. Stop training, and they start to go away. ”


Why Most People Don't Reach Mastery

The reason that most people don’t possess these extraordinary physical capabilities isn’t because they don’t have“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 World of Good Enough

“We learn enough to get by in our day-to-day lives, but once we reach that point, we seldom push to go beyond good enough. We do very little that challenges our brains to develop new gray matter or white matter or to rewire entire sections in the way that an aspiring London taxi driver or violin student might.”



“he or she has accumulated some fifty thousand of these chunks. A master who examines a chess position sees a collection of chunks that are interacting with other chunks in still other patterns. Research has shown that these chunks are organized hierarchically, with groups of chunks arranged into higher-level patterns. The hierarchy is analogous to the organizational structure of a business or other large institution, with individuals “organized into teams, which are organized into units, which are organized into departments, and so on, with the higher-level pieces being more abstracted and further from the bottom level where the real action takes place (which, in the case of the chess example, is the level of the individual chess pieces).”
the important thing about them is that they are held in long-term memory.”


Mental Representation

is a mental structure that corresponds to an object, an idea, a collection of information, or anything else, concrete or abstract, that the brain is thinking about”

Much of deliberate practice involves developing ever more efficient mental representations that you can use in whatever activity you are practicing. ”


Common to All Mental Representations

“The thing all mental representations have in common is that they make it possible to process large amounts of information quickly, despite the limitations of short-term memory. Indeed, one could define a mental representation as a conceptual structure designed to sidestep the usual restrictions that short-term memory places on mental processing.”


The Mental Representations of Experts

What sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and quantity of their mental representations. Through years of practice, they develop highly complex and sophisticated representations of the various situations they are likely to encounter in their fields—such as the vast number of arrangements of chess pieces that can appear during games. These representations allow them to make faster, more accurate decisions and respond more quickly and effectively in a given situation. This, more than anything else, explains the differ”

“The main thing that sets experts apart from the rest of us is that their years of practice have changed the neural circuitry in their brains to produce highly specialized mental representations, which in turn make possible the incredible memory, pattern recognition, problem solving, and other sorts of advanced abilities needed to excel in their particular specialties.”


Hallmark of Expert Performance

What sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and quantity of their mental representations. Through years of practice, they develop highly complex and sophisticated representations of the various situations they are likely to encounter in their fields—such as the vast number of arrangements of chess pieces that can appear during games. These representations allow them to make faster, more accurate decisions and respond more quickly and effectively in a given situation. This, more than anything else, explains the differ”

“The main thing that sets experts apart from the rest of us is that their years of practice have changed the neural circuitry in their brains to produce highly specialized mental representations, which in turn make possible the incredible memory, pattern recognition, problem solving, and other sorts of advanced abilities needed to excel in their particular specialties.”


Hallmark of Expert Mental Representation

“In pretty much every area, a hallmark of expert performance is the ability to see patterns in a collection of things that would seem random or confusing to people with less well developed mental representations. In other words, experts see the forest when everyone else sees only trees.”


Key Benefit of mental Representations

lies in how they help us deal with information: understanding and interpreting it, holding it in memory, organizing it, analyzing it, and making decisions with it. The same is true for all experts—and most of us are experts at something, whether we realize it or not.”

“The more you study a subject, the more detailed your mental representations of it become, and the better you get at assimilating new information. ”


Major Advantage of Mental Representations

you can assimilate and consider a great deal more information at once. ”

“The superior organization of information is a theme that appears over and over again in the study of expert performers.”

“More generally, mental representations can be used to plan a wide variety of areas, and the better the representation, the more effective the planning.


When Surgery Doesn't Match the vision of the Surgeon

When an actual surgery diverges from the surgeon’s mental representation, he or she knows to slow down, rethink the options, and, if necessary, formulate a new plan in response to the new information.”


Knowledge Telling

there’s a topic and there are various thoughts that the writer has on the topic, often loosely organized by relevance or importance, but sometimes by category or some other pattern. A slightly more sophisticated representation might include some sort of introduction at the beginning and a conclusion or summary at the end, but that’s about it.


Expert Writers

we had to figure out what we wanted the book to do. What did we want readers to learn about expertise? What concepts and ideas were important to introduce? How should a reader’s ideas about training and potential be changed by reading this book? Answering questions like these gave us our first rough mental representation of the book—our goals“for it, what we wanted it to accomplish. Of course, as we worked more and more on the book, that initial image evolved, but it was a start.”

As we made our choices, we gradually honed our mental representation of the book until we had something that seemed to meet all of our goals. The simplest way to imagine our mental representation at this stage is to think back to the old outlining technique you learned back in junior high English class. We prepared an outline of chapters, each“focused on a particular topic and covering various aspects of that topic. But the representation of the book that we had created was far richer and more complex than a simple outline. We knew, for instance, why each piece was there and what we wanted to accomplish with it. And we had a clear idea of the book’s structure and logic—why one topic followed another—and the interconnections among the various pieces. We found that this process also forced us to think carefully about how we conceptualized deliberate practice ourselves.


Purpose of Deliberate Practice

s to develop effective mental representations, and, as we will discuss shortly, mental representations in turn play a key role in deliberate practice. “The key change that occurs in our adaptable brains in response to deliberate practice is the development of better mental representations, which in turn open up new possibilities for improved performance.


Knowledge Transforming

“Researchers refer to this sort of writing as “knowledge transforming,” as opposed to “knowledge telling,” because the process of writing changes and adds to the knowledge that the writer had when starting out.”

“This is an example of one way in which expert performers use mental representations to improve their performance: they monitor and evaluate their performance, and, when necessary, they modify their mental representations in order to make them more effective. The more effective the mental representation is, the better the performance will be.”

We had developed a certain mental representation of the book, but we found out that it had led us to a performance (the explanations in our original proposal) that was not as good as we wished, so we used the feedback we had gotten and modified the representation accordingly. This in turn led us to a much better explanation of deliberate practice.”


To Write Well

develop a mental representation ahead of time to guide your efforts, then monitor and evaluate your efforts and be ready to modify that representation as necessary.”


Mental Representations aren't just the result of learning a skill;

they can also help us learn. Some of the best evidence for this comes from the field of musical performance. Several researchers have examined what differentiates the best musicians from lesser ones, and one of the major differences lies in the quality of the mental representations the best ones create.”

“When practicing a new piece, beginning and intermediate musicians generally lack a good, clear idea of how the music should sound, while advanced musicians have a very detailed mental representation of the music they use to guide their practice and, ultimately, their performance of a piece. In particular, they use their mental representations to provide their own feedback so that they know how close they are to getting the piece right and what they need to do differently to improve. ”

“he more accomplished music students were better able to determine when they’d made mistakes and better able to identify difficult sections they needed to focus their efforts on. This implies that the students had more highly developed mental representations of the music they were playing and of their own performances, which allowed them to monitor their practice and spot mistakes. Furthermore, the more advanced music students also had more effective practice techniques. The implication is that they were using their mental representations not only to spot mistakes but also to match appropriate practice techniques with the types of difficulties they were having with the music.”


The Virtous Cycle of Mastery

the relationship between skill and mental representations is a virtuous circle: the more skilled you become, the better your mental representations are, and the better your mental representations are, the more effectively you can practice to hone your skill.”


Artistic Image

a representation of what the piece should sound like when she performed it. Now, Imreh was not coming to this piece cold—she’d heard it many times—but the fact that she was able to create this mental image of the piece simply by reading the score indicates just how highly developed her mental representations of the piano are. Where most of us would see musical symbols on a page, she heard the music in her head.”

“Much of what Imreh did from that point on was figuring out how to perform the piece so that it matched her artistic image.
By putting all of these different elements into an overall map of the piece, Imreh managed to do justice to both the forest and the trees. She formed an image of what the whole piece should sound like, while also giving herself clear images of the details she needed to pay close attention to as she was playing.


How to Build a Stair Case of Mental Representations

You work up to a double axel bit by bit, assembling the mental representations as you go.
It’s like a staircase that you climb as you build it. Each step of your ascent puts you in a position to build the next step. Then you build that step, and you’re in a position to build the next one. And so on. Your existing mental representations guide your performance and allow you to both monitor and judge that performance. As you push yourself to do something new—to develop a new skill or sharpen an old one—you are also expanding and sharpening“your mental representations, which will in turn make it possible for you to do more than you could before.”


The Myth of the Joy of Practice

In short, there were no students who just loved to practice and thus needed less motivation than the others. These students were motivated to practice intensely and with full concentration because they saw such practice as essential to improving their performance.”


Purposeful Practice is Deliberate Practice that...

knows where it is going and how to get there.
In short


Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice develops skills that other people have already figured out how to do and for which effective training techniques have been established. The practice regimen should be designed and overseen by a teacher or coach who is familiar with the abilities of expert performers and with how those abilities can best be developed.

Deliberate practice takes place outside one’s comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond his or her current abilities. Thus it demands near-maximal effort, which is generally not enjoyable.

Deliberate practice involves well-defined, specific goals and often involves improving some aspect of the target performance; it is not aimed at some vague overall improvement. Once an overall goal has been set, a teacher or coach will develop a plan for making a series of small changes that will add up to the desired larger change. Improving some aspect of the “target performance allows a performer to see that his or her performances have been improved by the training.”

“Deliberate practice is deliberate, that is, it requires a person’s full attention and conscious actions. It isn’t enough to simply follow a teacher’s or coach’s directions. The student must concentrate on the specific goal for his or her practice activity so that adjustments can be made to control practice.

Deliberate practice involves feedback and modification of efforts in response to that feedback. Early in the training process much of the feedback will come from the teacher or coach, who will monitor progress, point out problems, and offer ways to address those problems. With time and experience students must learn to monitor themselves, spot mistakes, and adjust accordingly. Such self-monitoring requires effective mental representations.

Deliberate practice both produces and depends on effective mental representations. Improving “performance goes hand in hand with improving mental representations; as one’s performance improves, the representations become more detailed and effective, in turn making it possible to improve even more. Mental representations make it possible to monitor how one is doing, both in practice and in actual performance. They show the right way to do something and allow one to notice when doing something wrong and to correct it.”

“Deliberate practice nearly always involves building or modifying previously acquired skills by focusing on particular aspects of those skills and working to improve them specifically; over time this step-by-step improvement will eventually lead to expert performance. Because of the way that new skills are built on top of existing skills, it is important for teachers to provide beginners with the correct fundamental skills in order to minimize the chances that the student will have to relearn“those fundamental skills later when at a more advanced level.”


A Key Part of Purposeful Practice

learning from the best predecessors—and that has proved enough to generate rapid improvements in the field.”


Basic Blueprint for Getting Better at Any Pursuit

If you’re in a field where deliberate practice is an option, you should take that option. If not, apply the principles of deliberate practice as much as possible. In practice this often boils down to purposeful practice with a few extra steps: first, identify the expert performers, then figure out what they do that makes them so good, then come up with training techniques that allow you to do it, too.”


In Areas where a Person's Performance or Product can be Observed Directly--

a screenwriter, say, or a programmer—the judgment of peers is a good place to start, while keeping in mind the possible influence of unconscious bias.”

Remember that the ideal is to find objective, reproducible measures that consistently distinguish the best from the rest, and if that ideal is not possible, approximate it as well as you can.”


To Find Expert Performers

a good rule of thumb is to seek out people who work intimately with many other professionals, such as a nurse who plays a role on several different surgery teams and can compare their performance and identify the best. Another method is to seek out the persons that professionals themselves seek out when they need help with a particularly difficult situation. Talk to the people about who they think are the best performers in their field, but be certain that you ask them what type of experience and knowledge they have to be able to judge one professional as being better than anothe


Once you’ve identified the expert performers in a field

the next step is to figure out specifically what they do that separates them from other, less accomplished people in the same field, and what training methods helped them get there. This is not always easy. ”

Fortunately, in some cases you can bypass figuring out what sets experts themselves apart from others and simply figure out what sets their training apart.”


When Breaking Down the Habits of an Expert

keep in mind that the idea is to inform your purposeful practice and point it in directions that will be more effective. If you find that something works, keep doing it; if it doesn’t work, stop. The better you are able to tailor your training to mirror the best performers in your field, the more effective your training is likely to be.

“And finally remember that, whenever possible, the best approach is almost always to work with a good coach or teacher. An effective instructor will understand what must go into a successful training regimen and will be able to modify it as necessary to suit individual students.”


Becoming Established in any Competitive Field

s requires a tremendous amount of effort exerted over many years. It may not require exactly ten thousand hours, but it will take a lot.”

“Authors and poets have usually been writing for more than a decade before they produce their best work, and it is generally a decade or more between a scientist’s first publication and his or her most important publication—and this is in addition to the years of study before that first published research.”


No Practice is the Equal of an hour

of focused, goal-driven practice that is designed to address certain weaknesses and make certain improvements—the sort of practice that was the key factor in explaining the abilities of the Berlin student violinists.”


In pretty much any area of human endeavor, people have a tremendous capacity to improve their performance

as long as they train in the right way. If you practice something for a few hundred hours, you will almost certainly see great improvement “ getting better and better and better. How much you improve is up to you.


To Date We Have Not Yet Found

limitations to the improvements that can be made with particular types of practice. As training techniques are improved and new heights of achievement are“discovered, people in every area of human endeavor are constantly finding ways to get better, to raise the bar on what was thought to be possible, and there is no sign that this will stop. The horizons of human potential are expanding with each new generation.”


Three Myths of Improvement

The first is our old friend, the belief that one’s abilities are limited by one’s genetically prescribed characteristics. That belief manifests itself in all“sorts of “I can’t” or “I’m not” statements: “I’m just not very creative.” “I can’t manage people.” “I’m not any good with numbers.”

The second myth holds that if you do something for long enough, you’re bound to get better at it. Again, we know better. Doing the same thing over“and over again in exactly the same way is not a recipe for improvement; it is a recipe for stagnation and gradual decline.

The third myth states that all it takes to improve is effort. If you just try hard enough, you’ll get better. If you want to be a better manager, try harder. If you want to generate more sales, try harder. If you want to improve your teamwork, try harder. The reality is, however, that all of these things—managing, selling, teamwork—are specialized skills, and unless you are using practice techniques specifically designed to improve those particular skills, trying hard will not get you very far.
The deliberate-practice mindset offers a very different view: anyone can improve, but it requires the right approach. If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way. Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the “right way” is.”


Rule of Thumb for Purposeful Practice

Does it push people to get outside their comfort zones and attempt to do things that are not easy for them? Does it offer immediate feedback on the performance and on what can be done to improve it? Have those who“developed the approach identified the best performers in that particular area and determined what sets them apart from everyone else? Is the practice designed to develop the particular skills that experts in the field possess? A yes answer to all those questions may not guarantee that an approach will be effective, but it will certainly make that much more likely.”


When you look at how people are trained in the professional and business worlds, you find a tendency to focus on knowledge at the expense of skills

The main reasons are tradition and convenience: it is much easier to present knowledge to a large group of people than it is to set up conditions under which individuals can develop skills through practice.”


Teaching Knowledge VS Skills

In general, professional schools focus on knowledge rather than skills because it is much easier to teach knowledge and then create tests for it. The general argument has been that the skills can be mastered relatively easily if the knowledge is there. One result is that when college students enter the work world, they often find that they need a lot of time to develop the skills they need to do their job. Another result is that many professions do no better a job than medicine—and in most cases, a worse job—of helping practitioners sharpen their skills. Again, the assumption is that simply accumulating more experience will lead to better performance.”


How to Pick the Mind of Experts

to figure out what underlies that superior performance. This usually involves some variation of the approach, described in chapter 1, that I used in the memory work with Steve Faloon. That is, you get retrospective reports, you have people describe what they’re thinking about as they perform a task, and you observe which tasks are easier or harder for someone and draw conclusions from that.


The Main Way Expert Surgeons Detected Problems

was by noticing that something about the surgery didn’t match the way they had visualized the surgery in their preoperative plan. Once they noticed the mismatch, they came up with a list of alternative approaches and decided which was most likely to work.”

“This points to something important about how these experienced surgeons perform: over time they have developed effective mental representations that they use in planning the surgery, in performing it, and in monitoring its progress so that they can detect when something is wrong and adapt accordingly.


Why Knowledge, and Not Skills are Taught

When you look at how people are trained in the professional and business worlds, you find a tendency to focus on knowledge at the expense of skills. The main reasons are tradition and convenience: it is much easier to present knowledge to a large group of people than it is to set up conditions under which individuals can develop skills through practice.”


The Argument for Knowledge over Skills

The general argument has been that the skills can be mastered relatively easily if the knowledge is there. One result is that when college students enter the work world, they often find that they need a lot of time to develop the skills they need to do their job. Another result is that many professions do no better a job than medicine—and in most cases, a worse job—of helping practitioners sharpen their skills. Again, the assumption is that simply accumulating more experience will lead to better performance.”


If We are Going to Understand what makes an Expert Performer

we need to have a good idea of what a superior surgeon’s mental representations look like. Psychologists have developed various ways to study mental representations. One standard approach for examining the mental representations that people use to guide themselves through a task is to stop them in the middle of the task, turn out the lights, and then ask them to describe the current situation, what has happened, and what is about to happen.”

“Ideally, you would like to identify characteristics of mental representations that are associated with greater success in the surgeries.”


The Difficulty of Self Learning

the main purposes of deliberate practice is to develop a set of effective mental representations that can guide your performance, whether you are practicing a karate move, playing a piano sonata, or performing surgery. When you’re practicing by yourself, you have to rely upon your own mental representations to monitor your performance and determine what you might be doing wrong. This is not impossible, but it is much more difficult and less efficient than having an experienced teacher watching you and providing feedback. ”

“This is especially true when your mental representations are still tentative and inaccurate; once you have developed a foundation of solid representations, you work from those to build new and more effective representations on your own.


Important Thing When Trying to Improve

“Even the most motivated and intelligent student will advance more quickly under the tutelage of someone who knows the best order in which to learn things, who understands and can demonstrate the proper way to perform various skills, who can provide useful feedback, and who can devise practice activities designed to overcome particular weaknesses. Thus, one of the most important things you can do for your success is to find a good teacher and work with him or her.”


How Do You Find a Good Teacher?

This process will likely entail some trial and error, but there are a few ways you can improve your chances of success. First, while a good teacher does not have to be one of the best in the world, he or she should be accomplished in the field. Generally speaking, teachers will only be able to guide you to the level that they or their previous students have attained. If you’re a flat-out beginner, any reasonably skilled teacher will do, but once you’ve been training for a few years, you’ll need a teacher who is more advanced.
A good teacher should also have some skill and experience in teaching in that field. Many accomplished performers are terrible teachers because they have no idea how to teach. Just because they themselves can do it doesn’t mean they can teach others how to do it. Ask about a teacher’s experience and, if possible, investigate and even talk to the teacher’s former or current students. How good are they? How much of their skill can be attributed to that particular teacher? Do they speak highly of the teacher? The best students to talk to are those who started working with a teacher when they were at about the same level you are now, since their experience will be closest to what you yourself will get from a teacher. Ideally you want to find students similar in age and relevant experience.”


When Looking For a Teacher

skip over the stuff about how much fun their lessons are and look for specific descriptions of progress the students have made and obstacles they have overcome.”

“Remember: one of the most important things a teacher can do is to help you develop your own mental representations so that you can monitor and correct your own performance.”


If You find yourself no longer impROVing

quickly or at all, don’t be afraid to look for a new instructor. The most important thing is to keep moving forward.”


Beware Complacency

“it is far too easy to just “go through the motions” instead of actually practicing them with the specific goal of improving a particular aspect of one’s performance. ”

“You get into a zone, your mind starts to wander, and pretty soon all of the benefit of the practice dissipates.”

“Remember: if your mind is wandering or you’re relaxed and just having fun, you probably won’t improve.


Importance of Purposeful Practice Without a Clear Plan Forward

If you want to improve in chess, you don’t do it by playing chess; you do it with solitary study of the grandmasters’ games. If you want to improve in darts, you don’t do it by going to the bar with your friends and letting the loser buy the next round; you do it by spending some time alone working on reproducing your throwing motion exactly from one throw to the next. You improve your control by systematically varying the point on the dartboards that you aim at. And so on.”


Fun Practice as the Domain of the Amateur

For the amateurs it was a time to express themselves, to sing away their cares, and to feel the pure joy of singing. For the professionals, the lesson was a time to concentrate on such things as vocal technique and breath control in an effort to improve their singing. There was focus but no joy.
This is a key to getting the maximum benefit out of any sort of practice, from private or group lessons to solitary practice and even to games or competitions: whatever you are doing, focus on it.


The Recipe for Maximum Improvement as You Practice

“each one done correctly, time and again, until excellence in every detail becomes a firmly ingrained habit.
“paying attention performing those actions the right way will lead to greater improvement.”


there is little point at all to practicing if you don’t focus.”

People who are just learning to focus on their practice won’t be able to maintain it for several hours. Instead, they’ll need to start out with much shorter sessions and gradually work up.
The advice I offered to Per Holmlöv in this area can be applied to just about anyone who is getting started on deliberate practice: Focus and concentration are crucial, I wrote, so shorter training sessions with clearer goals are the best way to develop new skills faster. It is better to train at 100 percent effort for less time than at 70 percent effort for a longer period. Once you find you can no longer focus effectively, end the session. And make sure you get enough sleep so that you can train with maximum concentration.


Benjamin Franklin's Chess

he was playing chess for hours and hours but never really getting any better. This provided us with an excellent example of how not to practice—just doing the same thing over and over again without any focused step-by-step plan for improvement. ”


Ben Franklin's Writing Practice

“He first set out to see how closely he could reproduce the sentences in an article once he had forgotten their exact wording. So he chose several of the articles whose writing he admired and wrote down short descriptions of the content of each sentence—just enough to remind him what the sentence was about. After several days he tried to reproduce the articles from the hints he had written down. His goal was not so much to produce a word-for-word replica of the articles as to create his own articles“that were as detailed and well written as the original. Having written his reproductions, he went back to the original articles, compared them with his own efforts, and corrected his versions where necessary. This taught him to express ideas clearly and cogently.”


Ben Franklin and Poetry

t wasn’t that he didn’t know the words, but rather that he didn’t have them at his fingertips when he was writing. To fix this he came up with a variation of his first exercise. He decided that writing poetry would force him to come up with a plethora of different words that he might not normally think of because of the need to fit the poem’s rhythm and the rhyming pattern, so he took some of the Spectator articles and transformed them into verse. Then, after waiting long enough that his memory of the original wording had faded, he would transform the poems back into prose. This got him into the habit of finding just the right word and increased the“number of words he could call up quickly from his memory.


Ben Franklin's Strategy for Building Structure

Once again, he worked with articles from The Spectator and wrote hints for each sentence. But this time he wrote the hints on separate pieces of paper and then jumbled them so that they were completely out of order.

Then he waited long enough that not only had he forgotten the wording of the sentences in the original articles, but he had also forgotten their order, and he tried once again to reproduce the articles. He would take the jumbled hints from one article and arrange them in what he thought was the most logical order, then write sentences from each hint and compare the result with the original article. The exercise forced him to think carefully about how to order the thoughts in a piece of writing.

If he found places where he’d failed to order his thoughts as well as the original writer, he would correct his work and try to learn from his mistakes.”


Your Path to mastery Without a Teacher

“The hallmark of purposeful or deliberate practice is that you try to do something you cannot do—that takes you out of your comfort zone—and that you practice it over and over again, focusing on exactly how you are doing it, where you are falling short, and how you can get better. Real life—our jobs, our schooling, our hobbies—seldom gives us the opportunity for this sort of focused repetition, so in order to improve, we must manufacture our own opportunities. Franklin did it with his exercises, each focused on a particular facet of writing. Much of what a good teacher or coach will do is to develop such exercises for you, designed specifically to help you improve the particular skill you are focused on at the moment. But without a teacher, you must come up with your own exercises.”


The Purpose of Repetition

is to figure out where your weaknesses are and focus on getting“better in those areas, trying different methods to improve until you find something that works.”


3 F's of Self Practice

To effectively practice a skill without a teacher, it helps to keep in mind three Fs: Focus. Feedback. Fix it. Break the skill down into components that you can do repeatedly and analyze effectively, deter“mine your weaknesses, and figure out ways to address them.”


The Path to Mastery for a Performer

He went to downtown Rio and struck up conversations with people who were going home during rush hour. Most of them were in a hurry, so he had to work to keep them interested enough to stay and listen to what he had to say. In doing so he got to practice using his voice and body language to draw attention to himself and using pauses that were long enough, but not too long, to create dramatic tension.”

“What struck me most, though, was how deliberate he was about it: He used his watch to time exactly how long he could keep each conversation going. He spent a couple of hours each day doing this, taking notes about which techniques worked best and which didn’t work well at all.”


Franklin's Surrogate Teacher

template for developing mental representations when you have little or no input from instructors. When he analyzed the writing in The Spectator and figured out what made it good, he was—although he didn’t think of it in these terms—creating a mental representation that he could use to guide his own work. The more he practiced, the more highly developed his mental representations became, until he could write at the level of The Spectator without having a concrete example in front of him. He had internalized good writing—which is just another way of saying that he had built mental representations that captured its salient features.”

“But this is exactly how chess players improve most effectively—by studying the games of grandmasters, trying to reproduce them move by move, and, when they choose a move that is different from what the grandmaster chose, studying the position again to see what they missed.”


Studying the Art of a Master

We can build effective mental representations in many areas with a similar technique. In music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father taught him to compose in part by having him study some of the era’s best composers and copy their work.”

“that is, by studying a piece of art by a master, attempting to reproduce it from memory, and then comparing the finished product with the original in order to discover the differences and correct them. ”


Despite Mental Representations...

pure mental analysis is not nearly enough. We can only form effective mental representations when we try to reproduce what the expert performer can do, fail, figure out why we failed, try again, and repeat—over and over again. Successful mental representations are inextricably“tied to actions, not just thoughts, and it is the extended practice aimed at reproducing the original product that will produce the mental representations we seek.”


The False Ceiling of a Plateau

When you first start learning something new, it is normal to see rapid—or at least steady—improvement, and when that improvement stops, it is natural to believe you’ve hit some sort of implacable limit. So you stop trying to move forward, and you settle down to life on that plateau. “This is the major reason that people in every area stop improving.”


The Best Way to Move Beyond a Plateau

is to challenge your brain or your body in a new way. Bodybuilders, for instance, will“change the types of exercises they are doing, increase or decrease the weight they’re lifting or the number of repetitions, and switch up their weekly routine. Actually, most of them will vary their patterns proactively so they don’t get stuck on plateaus in the first place. Cross-training of any sort is based on the same principle—switch off between different types of exercise so that you are constantly challenging yourself in different ways.”


Find Your Weak Points

Any reasonably complex skill will involve a variety of components, some of which you will be better at than others. Thus, when you reach a point at which you are having difficulty getting better, it will be just one or two of the components of that skill, not all of them, that are holding you back. The question is, Which ones?
To figure that out, you need to find a way to push yourself a little—not a lot—harder than usual. This will often help you figure out where your sticking points are.”

Push yourself well outside of your comfort zone and see what breaks down first. Then design a practice techniques aimed at improving particular weaknesses

“you’re a manager, pay attention to what goes wrong when things get busy or chaotic—those problems are not anomalies but rather indications of weaknesses that were probably there all the time but were usually less obvious.”


The Grit of Success

What distguished the most successful spellers was their superior ability to remain committed to studying despite the boredom and the pull of other, more appealing activities.”

“How do you keep going? That is perhaps the biggest question that anyone engaged in purposeful or deliberate practice will eventually face.”


The Problem of Pushing Past Mediocrity

purposeful practice is hard work.
As a rule of thumb, I think that anyone who hopes to improve skill in a particular area should devote an hour or more each day to practice that can be done with full concentration. ”


To Maintain Motivation to Keep Going

When you quit something that you had initially wanted to do, it’s because the reasons to stop eventually came to outweigh the reasons to continue. Thus, to maintain your motivation you can either strengthen the reasons to keep going or weaken the reasons to quit. Successful motivation efforts generally include both.”


Ways to Weaken the Desire to Quit

One of the most effective is to set aside a fixed time to practice that has been cleared of all other obligations and distractions. It can be difficult enough to push yourself to practice in the best of situations, but when you have other things you could be doing, there is a constant temptation to do something else and to justify it by telling yourself that it really needs to get done. If you do this often enough, you begin practicing less and less, and soon your training program is in a death spiral.


Good Planning as a Key to a Masterful Life

Furthermore, identifying that period as their practice time created a sense of habit and duty that made it less likely they’d be tempted by something else. The best and the better students averaged around five hours more of sleep per week than the good students, mostly by taking more time for afternoon naps. All of the students in the study—the good students, the better, and the best—spent about the same amount of time each week on leisure activities, but the best students were much better at estimating how much time they spent on leisure, which indicates that they made more of an effort to plan their time. Good planning can help you avoid many of the things that might lead you to spend less time on practice than you wanted.”


Narrowing Desires to Quit

look for anything that might interfere with your training and find ways to minimize its influence. If you’re likely to be distracted by your smartphone, turn it off. Or better yet, turn“it off and leave it in another room. If you’re not a morning person and you find it particularly difficult to exercise in the morning, move your run or your exercise class to later in the day when your body won’t fight you so much.
While any given factor may make only a small difference, the various factors add up.”


For purposeful or deliberate practice to be effective, you need to push yourself outside your comfort zone and maintain your focus, but those are mentally draining activities. Expert performers do two things that can help

The first is general physical maintenance: getting enough sleep and keeping healthy. If you’re tired or sick, it’s that much harder to maintain focus and that much easier to slack off. ”
The second thing is to limit the length of your practice sessions to about an hour. You can’t maintain intense concentration for much longer than that—and when you’re first starting out, it’s likely to be less. If you want to practice longer than an hour, go for an hour and take a break.”


Belief as a Key to Deliberate Practice

In order to push yourself when you really don’t feel like it, you must believe that you can improve and—particularly for people shooting to become expert perform“ers—that you can rank among the best. The power of such belief is so strong that it can even trump reality”
if you stop believing that you can reach a goal, either because you’ve regressed or you’ve plateaued, don’t quit. Make an agreement with yourself that you will do what it takes to get back to where you were or to get beyond the plateau, and then you can quit. You probably won’t.”


One of the strongest forms of extrinsic motivation is social motivation.

“Perhaps the most important factor here, though, is the social environment itself. Deliberate practice can be a lonely pursuit, but if you have a group of friends who are in the same positions—the other members of your orchestra or your baseball team or your chess club—you have a built-in support system.

and benchmark to judge yourself next to.

Put your ego on the line with others.


The need for Small Celebrations

One of the best bits of advice is to set things up so that you are constantly seeing concrete signs of improvement, even if it is not always major improvement. Break your long journey into a manageable series of goals and focus on them one at a time—perhaps even giving yourself a small reward each time you reach a goal.


The Takeaway from the Study of Experts

And this, more than anything else, is the lesson that people should take away from all these stories and all this research: There is no reason not to follow your dream. Deliberate practice can open the door to a world of possibilities that you may have been convinced were out of reach. Open that door.”


Furthermore, research on the most successful creative people in various fields, particularly science, finds

that creativity goes hand in hand with the ability to work hard and maintain focus over long stretches of time—exactly the ingredients of“deliberate practice that produced their expert abilities in the first place. For example, a study of Nobel Prize winners found that they had generally published scientific papers earlier than most of their peers and that they published significantly more papers throughout their careers than others in their discipline. In other words, they worked harder than everyone else.”


Experts learn to practice Deliberately

“That is, they practice in a way that engages their brain’s adaptability, which in turn changes their brains in ways that lead to their extraordinary abilities”


The Belief is the First Hurdle

“the major obstacle that people who believe they can’t sing must overcome is that belief itself. Various researchers have studied this issue, and there is no evidence that large numbers of people are born without the innate ability to sing.”

“where everyone is expected to sing, everyone is taught to sing, and everyone can sing. In our culture, the reason that most nonsingers cannot sing is“simply that they never practiced in a way that led them to develop the ability to sing.
“Could the same thing be true about a subject like math?
But a number of successful efforts have shown that pretty much any child can learn math if it is taught in the right way.”


The Ceiling to Improvement

“People do not stop learning and improving because they have reached some innate limits on their performance; they stop learning and improving because, for whatever reasons, they stopped practicing—or never started.”

There is no evidence“that any otherwise normal people are born without the innate talent to sing or do math or perform any other skill.”


The Fallacy of the Quick learner

because we see such differences in beginners, it’s natural to assume that those differences will persist—that the same people who did so well in the beginning will continue to breeze through later on.”

“And if you examine chess-playing ability in children who are just learning to play, those with higher IQs do indeed become better players faster. But that is just the beginning of the story—and it is the end of the story that truly tells the tale”

In the long run it is the ones who practice more who prevail, not the ones who had some initial advantage in intelligence or some other talent.”
“While people with certain innate characteristics—IQ, in the case of the chess study—may have an advantage when first learning a skill, that advantage gets smaller over time, and eventually the amount and the quality of practice take on a much larger role in determining how skilled a person becomes.”


The Arena that Experts Compete on

With enough solitary practice, the mental representations become so useful and powerful in playing the game that the major thing separating two players is not their intelligence—their visuospatial abilities, or even their memory or processing speed—but rather the quality and quantity of their mental representations and how effectively they use them. Because these mental representations are developed specifically for the purpose of analyzing chess positions and coming up with the best moves—remember, they are usually developed through thousands of hours of studying the games of grandmasters—they’re far more effective for playing chess than simply using one’s memory and logic and analyzing the collection of pieces on the board as individually interacting items.”


We do know—and this is important—that among those people who have practiced enough and have reached a certain level of skill in their chosen field,

there is no evidence that any genetically determined abilities play a role in deciding who will be among the best. Once you get to the top, it isn’t natural talent that makes the difference, at least not “talent” in the way it is usually understood as an innate ability to excel at a particular activity.”


The Self Fulfilling Prophecy of Talent

When people assume that talent plays a major, even determining, role in how accomplished a person can become, that assumption points one toward certain decisions and actions. If you assume that people who are not innately gifted are never going to be good at something, then the children who don’t excel at something right away are encouraged to try something else.”


Surprised by High Level Performers

how many of them have never taken the time to identify those aspects of performance that they would like to improve and then design training methods aimed specifically at those things. ”


Deliberate Practice is

all about the skills. You pick up the necessary knowledge in order to develop the skills; knowledge should never be an end in itself. Nonetheless, deliberate practice results in students picking up quite a lot of knowledge along the way.”


If you teach a student facts, concepts, and rules, those things go into long-term memory as individual pieces, and if a student then wishes to do something with them—use them to solve a problem, reason with them to answer a question, or organize and analyze them to come up with a theme or a hypothesis—the limitations of attention and short-term memory kick in. The student must keep all of these different, unconnected pieces in mind while working with them toward a solution.

However, if this information is assimilated as part of building mental representations aimed at doing something, the individual pieces become part of an interconnected pattern that provides context and meaning to the information, making it easier to work with.


you don’t build mental representations by thinking about something;”

You“build them by trying to do something, failing, revising, and trying again, over and over. When you’re done, not only have you developed an effective mental representation for the skill you were developing, but you have also absorbed a great deal of information connected with that skill.”


When Planning yOUR leSsons

determining what a student should be able to do is far more effective than determining what that student should know. It then turns out that the knowing part comes along for the ride.”


Deliberate Learning as a Lesson Plan

Once Wieman and his colleagues had put together a list of what things their students should be able to do, they transformed it into a collection of specific learning objectives.

Again, this is a classic deliberate-practice approach: when teaching a skill, break the lesson into a series of steps that the student can master one at a time, building from one to the next to reach the ultimate objective. While this sounds very similar to the scaffolding approach used in traditional education, it differs crucially in its focus on understanding the necessary mental“representations at each step of the way and making sure that the student has developed the appropriate representations before moving to the next step. ”


road map for redesigning instruction according to deliberate-practice principles:

Begin by identifying what students should learn how to do. The objectives should be skills, not knowledge.

In figuring out the particular way students should learn a skill, examine how the experts do it. In particular, understand as much as possible about the mental representations that experts use, and teach the skill so as to help students develop similar mental representations. This will involve teaching the skill step by step, with each step designed to keep students out of their comfort zone but not so far out that they cannot master that step. Then give plenty of repetition and feedback; the regular cycle of try, fail, get feedback, try again, and so on is how the students will build their mental representations.”


The New Pressures of Improvement

“In the future most people will have no choice but to continuously learn new skills, so it will be essential to train students and adults about how to learn efficiently.