We’ve all heard of the 10,000 Hour Rule (popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers — that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill and become an expert.
Turns out 10,000 is not a magic number, it’s just a big number. In Episode 128, Jesse talks to an expert on becoming an expert, Dr. Karl Anders Ericsson, Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, and author of the new book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Although Gladwell drew on Dr. Ericsson’s research, they never spoke before Outliers was published. Dr. Ericsson believes the most important element of mastering a skill was lost in translation: deliberate practice.
According to Dr. Ericsson’s research, deliberate practice is the secret sauce for achieving expertise. Deliberate practice involves practicing a skill in a way that pushes you to improve as much as possible, through the right sequence of training, guided by a teacher.
Both the amount and quality of practice are important. Deliberate practice is sustained and specific. It’s not fun — you’re working on what you can’t do, or can’t do well — and it’s not quick — it takes a long time to become an expert.
The myth of natural gifts is destructive. Even Mozart wasn’t born with perfect pitch. Research has found that perfect pitch can be taught to children between the ages of three and five. So don’t waste time trying to discover your unique talent. Pick a goal, find the best teacher possible, and dedicate yourself to improving.
People at the highest levels of performance share key characteristics: they are in control of their skill development, and are constant analyzing and measuring their performance.
They get feedback quickly and early, and actually change what they’re doing based on that feedback. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t practice free throws without checking if the ball actually went through the hoop, would you?
Experts keep practicing even when they aren’t physically practicing. Experts are able visualize situations so accurately that they can improve from mental training alone. Word of caution: before you can benefit from mental training, you have to be skilled enough that you can visualize in detail what you’re practicing.
Listen to the episode for more on state-dependent memory, whether rituals are effective, and becoming a chess master.
Further Reading on Expertise:
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Intro to Dr. Karl Anders Ericsson
This Week in Neuroscience: Prejudice Can Actually Change How You View Faces
The audience interaction settings
Expertise on expertise
Perfect pitch vs relative pitch, and brain changes as you age
Do experts know how they become experts?
Looking for your gifts vs honing your skills
The 10,000 hour rule - is it real?
The correlation between the time takes to gain expertise and how quickly a skill is acquired
The difficulty in quantifying improvement
Parents helping their children, and finding the right teacher
The reality of testing the 10,000 rule
Visualization vs real-world practice
How, when and why do breakthroughs happen?
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