Super Freakonomics Lesson #3: Deliberate Practice = Mastery

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Women's Soccer Team Practice, originally uploaded by Michael Oh.

Super Freakonomics lesson #3: Deliberate Practice is the Key to Mastery

Levitt and Dubner only refer to deliberate practice on one page in this book, page 61. I can't always explain my take away's from books, trainings or experiences.  But  this thought, and the research the authors referred to by  K. Anders Ericsson's  on Deliberate Practice got a hold of me and hasn't let go…

The authors refer to Ericsson's research as a way of illuminating the facts behind  mastery, excellence, improvement and superior performance.

You see ,most of us have bought into the lie that excellence, mastery is nothing more than divinely inherited dna and genetic superiority.

In reality 'raw talent' is given vastly more credit than it's due.

It's really not true that most of us are genetically handicapped.  A truer truth might be that our level of mastery or improvement mirrors our investment in the art of deliberate practice.

Because as it turns out, the research is quite conclusive ;mastery takes time.  Excellence and improvement are not possible unless you and I are willing to commit alot of time to getting better….and the authors caution deliberate practice is not willy nilly kick the ball around.. 

I guess it makes sense why we are encouraged to do what we love.

Clearly without a deep sense of enjoyment or love for an activity, subject or discipline there is no way anyone would commit the time it takes to improve, excel and ultimately master it.

That's why our teachers and parents always tell us to find something we love to do, because quite honestly if you don't enjoy what your doing you'll never invest the amount of time or extend the effort it takes to excel or improve.

Funny, I think I've fallen prey to this false belief that for some people mastery, improvement just came easier. Reading the research behind deliberate practice, the research behind the authors comments on page 61 it hit me square between the eyes, for most of my adult life I've under acknowledged the sheer commitment it takes to truly master any one thing.

Research also proves that  all practice is not equal when it comes to mastery, improvement and excellence.  Ericsson's outlines a framework called deliberate practice. Deliberate practice includes setting specific goals, obtaining feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcomes or results.

In the research Ericksson shows how international chess champions invest an average of 10-16 years to win at the highest levels. Scientist on average publish their first work at age 25.2 and their best work at age 35.4, poets  publish their first work at an average age of 24.2 and complete their best work at an average age 34.2. Seems mastery, best at, excellence, superior performance can take decades…

Willy nilly activity for activity sake is just that, not improvement.

 To improve we must be highly attentive, operating at an intensity and awareness level where errors are kept to a minimum so that we  maximize the encoding and programming of excellence. The research around excellence and mastery seems to  suggest that you and I would be far better off committing an hour a day to deliberate practice;  full concentration and intent,  than trying to spend hours upon hours of focused practice or worse yet trying to mix play, practice and work together.

So what do you want to improve? Believe it's possible- that you have the dna and genetics to do so? Do you innately love the activity, discipline, area of interest and is this something you would willingly invest an  hour a day focusing on?

If so the authors seem to conclude that with continual feedback,  modifications and new strategies and a concentration on technique and excellence of performance not results or outcomes you and I can achieve mastery….over time.

Don't be fooled, dna and raw talent ….well sure they help but if you want to improve survey says deliberate practice is the key…

What are your thoughts?

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