For myself, I put a lot of emphasis on basic movements, exercises and drills; which still isn't what they are getting at here, but directionally correct. The full post may be read here.
The Secret of Great Men: Deliberate Practiceby on November 7, 2010
What creates great men? What made Ted Williams the greatest hitter in the history of baseball? What made Shakespeare one of history’s greatest writers? How did Carnegie become one of history’s greatest businessmen?
The typical answer that most people give is that greatness is born. Nature blesses a few great men with some sort of innate gift that allows them to excel at what they do – Shakespeare entered the world with a peerless writing talent, and Williams was born to swing a bat. Under this view, you’re either born with talent and destined for greatness or born without talent and destined for a life of mediocrity.
There’s one small problem with this view of greatness: there isn’t much science to back it up.
In fact, studies show that greatness and excellence aren’t “a consequence of possessing innate gifts [and talents].” Rather greatness is the result of years and years of enormous amounts of hard, painful work. Ted Williams spent hours hitting baseballs, and Carnegie spent his entire adolescence learning how to network and developing his prodigious memory, skills that would turn him into a mind-bogglingly wealthy captain of industry.
Studies have demonstrated that young prodigies excel not because of some kind of mystical innate talent but on the merits of pure hustle. Mozart wrote his first masterpiece at 21. That’s pretty young.
But people often forget to mention that he had spent the previous 18 years of his life studying music under the tutelage of his father. Mozart had been paying his dues since he was three years old, and it paid off big for him.
In short, great men aren’t born; great men are made, and they’re made through the process of deliberate practice.
What Is Deliberate Practice?In the book Talent is Overrated, Fortune Magazine editor Geoff Colvin highlights recent studies that show that greatness can be developed by any man, in any field, through the process of deliberate practice. How does one practice deliberately? Colvin proposes five elements that allow a man to practice deliberately and thus achieve greatness.
1. Deliberate practice is an activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help. Most people practice by mindlessly repeating an activity over and over without any clear goal of what they want to accomplish. For example, let’s say a man wants to improve his golf game. If he’s like most men, he’ll just go to the driving range and hit a couple of buckets of balls without thinking much about specific ways he can improve his swing. Three hundred balls later, this man hasn’t improved at all. In fact, he may have gotten worse.
2. The practice activity can be regularly repeated. The world’s top performers spend years of their lives practicing. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter in baseball history, would practice hitting balls until his hands bled. Basketball legend Pistol Pete Maravich would go into the gym on Saturday mornings and practice shooting from a specific spot on the court until the gym closed at night. To be the best, you have to put in the time. In fact, if you want to become an expert in your field, you’ll need to put in at least 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice first.
3. The practice activity provides feedback on a continual basis. Constant feedback is crucial for improvement. You have to see the results of your efforts to evaluate if the way you’re doing things is working or if you need to change things up to improve. Moreover, without feedback during practice you’re more likely to lose the motivation to keep at it. During your practice sessions, constantly stop and look for feedback. With some activities, getting feedback is easy. For example, if you’re practicing your jump shot for basketball, if the ball goes through the net every shot, you know you’re on the right track. If you brick it every shot, that’s feedback that you need to change things up.
4. Deliberate practice is highly demanding mentally, whether it’s purely physical or mental. This factor separates deliberate practice from mindless practice. When you’re practicing deliberately, you’re focusing and concentrating so much on your performance that you’re mentally exhausted after your practice session. Deliberate practice is so demanding mentally that studies show that “four or five hours a day is the upper limit of deliberate practice, and this is frequently accomplished in sessions lasting no longer than an hour to ninety minutes.”
5. Deliberate practice isn’t much fun. Most people don’t enjoy doing activities that they’re not good at. It’s no fun to fail over and over again and receive criticism on how you can improve. No one likes to be humbled like that. We’d rather do stuff at which we excel because succeeding is enjoyable, and it strokes our egos. Yet deliberate practice is specifically designed to focus on things you suck at and requires you to practice those skills over and over again until you’re mentally exhausted. What a buzz kill.