Deliberate Practice

Written
  • Planning
  • Effort
  • Guided by well-informed feedback
  • Deliberate Practice is Not

    • It is not mindless repetition. Just doing something is different from purposefully learning it.
    • It is not sporadic. Regular practice is important to build skills.
    • It is not relaxing. It involves pushing ones self to new levels in order to improve.
  • Deliberate Practice - Mastery

    • Lessons from practice under a master teacher
      • Great coaches are, themselves, experts in the exact thing they’re teaching
      • Immediate feedback, noting both improvements and mistakes.
      • Plain language instead of jargon, to allow a more intuitive understanding of the topic.
      • Actively engage on the response to the feedback to ensure understanding.
    • What is a master?
      • Masters have a good mental model of their domain. They have learned to automatically notice the important details, such as soccer players mapping out the positions of players on a field when watching a game without explicitly thinking about it.
      • Representations
        • These are the facts, images, and patterns that allow a master to quickly assess and respond to a situation. They allow him to quickly process large amounts of information without the limitations of short term memory.
  • Deliberate Practice - Execution

    • Choose well-defined goals
      • Set small, achievable, goals for yourself.
      • The Suzuki method of learning violin is a good example of this. Each book directly builds on the last one and each song is a little harder than the one before it.
    • Frequent Feedback
      • Without feedback, you don’t know if your practice is actually bringing you in the right direction. If you don’t have a master coach to learn from, then you need to use your skills in front of other people.
      • For competitive skills (e.g. chess) you can play against a variety of other people, see where you made mistakes, what worked and didn’t.
      • For other skills (music, cooking, etc.) regularly invite people over. The important thing is that you get honest (even anonymous) feedback from them. And then refine your approach for next time.
    • Break it Down
      • We often want to improve in many areas at once, but this scattershot approach defeats deliberate practice. Instead, focus on one aspect at a time.
      • This allows you to better see how changes in one variable affect the whole, and also prevents the brain from trying to multitask on changing a lot of different things at once.
      • Pick an aspect of the thing you’re practicing and focus on that one aspect for a week. Set goals to use it and keep track of your usage and improvement.
    • Never Stop Pushing Yourself
      • If you’re only consuming information, you’re not doing deliberate practice, and you’re probably not improving very much.
      • Practice is hard work. Going through the motions doesn’t help you improve. The only way to improve, even when you are proficient, is to go a little farther than last time.
    • Coaching
      • … a couple hours with a tennis coach is going to improve your backhand volley so much more than playing maybe even for several years with your friends.
      • Coaches are valuable to give you one-on-one feedback and expert counsel to improve. But most professions do not have dedicated coaches like we see for sports.
      • One way to get around this is to research the best people in your field and study them like teachers. Marketers can study he best commercials; programmers can study the code of well-regarded OSS repos.
      • But really, there is no substitute for a good coach. This can be someone you hire or a good friend who is an expert and can be open and generous with his comments.
  • "One way to think about this is simply as a reflection of the fact that, to date, we have found no limitation to the improvements that can be made with particular types of practice. As training techniques are improves and new heights of achievement are discovered, people in every area of human endeavor of constantly finding ways to get better, to raise the bat on what was thought to be possible, and there is no sign that this will stop." -- Ericcson in Peak

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