This Awesome Method Makes You An Expert In Any Field

become an expert in any field

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear that man who has practices one kick 10,000 times.”

Bruce Lee

Table of Contents

If you are aspiring to be the next Kobe Bryant, Mozart or Picasso, or merely looking for a fail-safe way to bring your personal performance to an elite level, look no further.

 

There is a focused, systematic and purposeful practice technique for achieving expert performance in any field.

When it comes to elite level performance, it used to be a common view that it is the result of natural talent and abilities.

 

Have you ever given up on a dream or a goal because you felt that you lack the right qualities or talent?

 

So, what separates a good sprinter from the Usain Bolts of the world? Or a lounge pianist from Lang Lang, one of the most remarkable pianists of the 21st century?

 

Well, according to the author of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Karl Anders Ericsson:

“The differences between expert performers and normal adults are not immutable, that is, due to genetically prescribed talent. Instead, these differences reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance.”

 

Ericsson, who spent 30-plus years analyzing elite-level performers, had one conclusion:

Achieving top-notch results have more to do with practice than talent.

 

Mozart The Child Prodigy?

Legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was hailed as a child prodigy who dazzled audiences in music halls across Europe from the age of 6.

 

Ericsson attested that it not Mozart’s innate talent but a unique set of circumstances that lead to his meteoric rise as a musical prodigy.

 

Born to a family of musicians, Mozart was formerly exposed to music at the age of four and had notched thousands of hours of practice by age 6.

 

Ericsson acknowledged that Mozart’s flexibility and adaptability combined with appropriate training “develop a capability that seems quite magical to those of us who do not possess it.”

 

But he advocates that Mozart’s gift is not unique. Ericsson believes that everyone has the same highly adaptable brain and that, given the appropriate circumstances, anything is possible.

 

music-notes

 

Even Mozart’s ability to recognize a musical note accurately after hearing it in isolation is deemed attainable with the right teaching and exposure.

 

An experiment conducted by psychologist Ayako Sakakibara at the Ichionkai Music School in Tokyo proved that a perfect pitch can be acquired through a regimented training session. 

 

The Key Lies In A Single Technique

Elite-level performers are not freaks of nature with superhuman powers or special individuals endowed with unique talents.

 

They are just individuals who know how to maintain a high level of practice and enhance their performance.

 

The key to achieving elite-level performance is a single technique known as Deliberate Practice. Conceived by Ericsson, this technique that can be applied to any field.

 

Whether you are a musician, programmer, writer, teacher, entrepreneur or sportsperson, it can transform you from an amateur into an expert.

 

In a regular practice, your practice involves repeating the same thing over and over until it runs on auto-pilot.

 

Deliberate practice, on the other hand, utilizes a structured and systematic approach which requires your attention and intense focus at all times.

 

What Is Deliberate Practice?

If your intention is to get your performance to an elite level or you want to make sure that your skill development doesn’t hit a plateau, deliberate practice is what you need.

 

With constant progress as its objective, deliberate practice forces you to find what to improve and how to improve it. This enables you to improve as rapidly as possible or to reach expert status in a short amount of time.

 

Deliberate practice consists of four key principles:

 

1. There must be a specific goal

In order for deliberate practice to work, you must establish a specific and achievable goal. When you set your practice goals, aim for intensity rather than duration.

 

The success of deliberate practice is measured by the quality of your practice rather than the amount of time spent on it.

 

One effective way to ensure this is by breaking your goal down into small, manageable chunks.

 

Smaller goals make it easier for you to gauge which area you need to put more focus on. Ericsson explains that:

“Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal…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.”

 

2. You must be intensely focused

To get the most out of your deliberate practice, you need to be intensely focused. You will be able to cut out the distractions and give your practice undivided attention.

 

Elite performers use this to move past plateaus and experience a marked increase in their skills. Intense focus allows your brain to create shortcuts and make it easier to repeat the same things at the same level.

 

Ericsson mentioned in his book, Peak, that:

“Over my years of studying experts in various fields, I have found that they all develop their abilities … through dedicated training that drives changes in the brain (and sometimes, depending on the ability, in the body) that make it possible for them to do things that they otherwise could not …”

 

Neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire did a study on London cab drivers’ uncanny ability to memorize the labyrinthine city’s 25,000 streets.

 

The navigation skills of these London cabbies are the result of their intense focus through deliberate practice.

 

black-cab-London

 

3. Immediate feedback is mandatory

One of the important components of deliberate practice is immediate feedback. Because feedback tells you what you need to focus on.

 

You must be able measure your current level of performance in specific detail and also track your progress accurately.  

 

Ideally, avoid practicing solo and get a coach who can help you devise a feedback system. This will help you identify and improve on your weak areas and help you set better goals.

 

In Peak, Ericsson stressed the importance of feedback:

“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 goal.”

 

4. Get used to frequent bouts of discomfort

Geoff Colvin, author of Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else professes that:

“Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance and tons of it equals great performance.”

 

No doubt, practice that makes you better often times feels unpleasant, annoying or even grueling. As Ericsson puts it:

“This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.”

 

The Fallacy of The 10,000-Hour Rule

To get to an expert level in your field, the quality of your practice is as crucial as the quantity of it. But how much practice do you need in order to reach that level?

 

Ericsson did mention in his book that elite performers spent 10,000 hours (or approximately 10 years) to gain expertise in their field. Many have misunderstood this 10,000-hour rule.

 

Does this mean that so long as you have dedicated 10,000 hours of practice in your craft, you would automatically become an expert?

 

become-an-expert-10000-hour

 

The key to the 10,000-hour rule lies in the quality and not the quantity of the practice.

 

In a recent Freakonomics podcast, Ericsson made clarification to this much misunderstood rule:

“But I think there’s really nothing magical about 10,000 hours. Just the amount of experience performing may in fact have very limited chances to improve your performance. The key seems to be that deliberate practice, where you’re actually working on improving your own performance – that is the key process, and that’s what you need to try to maximize.”

 

If one is engaged in what is known as “naïve practice” – where practice is just going through the motions repeatedly without having a set, goal, intense focus and immediate feedback – the 10,000 rule is not going to work.

 

Because in naïve practice, according to Ericsson:

“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…”

 

He added that length of practice may have no bearing on improved performance at all:

“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.”

 

Deliberate Practice Does Have Its Drawbacks

Even though deliberate practice can be applied to any field, it is more suited in fields with well-established training techniques.

 

There are some fields where expertise is difficult to measure and it makes it tough to create a structured system for deliberate practice.

 

Does this mean that if you are trying to get to an expert level in a field where training systems are not available, you cannot do it via deliberate practice?

 

One approach would be to seek out a coach, instructor or mentor who can help you get to that level. try and understand how they got there, and proceed to purposefully practice.

 

If no systemized method is available, you might need to create your own training structure.

 

Another limitation of deliberate practice is the need for a coach who is qualified to guide you through your deliberate practice. Without constructive and immediate feedback, the effectiveness of your deliberate practice will be grossly compromised.

 

An Example of Deliberate Practice At Work

One of the best examples of deliberate practice is found in James Clear’s articleLessons on Success and Deliberate Practice from Mozart, Picasso, and Kobe Bryant

 

The late basketball legend Kobe Bryant is a winner of 5 NBA championships and 2 Olympic Gold Medals. His conditioning work begin at around 4:30am, followed by running and sprinting until 6am.

 

He lifted weights from 6am to 7am, and end his morning at 11am after making 800 jump shots.

 

Kobe’s training regimen have all the elements of deliberate practice. Firstly, he had a very specific goal – to achieve 800 made jump shots.

 

This means that if his shooting percentage were 50%, he would have to shoot 1600 baskets to be able to reach his daily goal of getting 800 shots into the basket.

 

kobe-bryant-wall-mural

And secondly, we have no doubts on how intensely focused Kobe is during his deliberate practice sessions.

 

Thirdly, he gets immediate feedback from his shooting coach. He also gauges how the ball moves to the hoop when he misses. Then, he would make adjustment to his posture, trajectory and mindset.

 

Fourthly, Kobe understood that in order to become an elite level basketball player, he had to endure frequent bouts of discomfort in his deliberate practice. His mantra was “Rest at the end, not the middle.”

 

Tim Grover, a personal trainer who had worked with Kobe for years during and after his NBA career, shared that he had to urge Kobe not to overwork himself.

 

How Far Are You Willing To Go?

Deliberate practice is not required is you are engaging in a fun activity or hobby.

 

But if your intention is to become an expert in your field or to push your current performance to an elite level, then you will benefit from deliberate practice.

 

Being an elite performer or an expert in any field does not come easy. It takes more than just deliberate practice. You would also need grit and determination.

 

Deliberate practice is a systematic and structured way to challenge yourself to strive towards greatness. Of course, its value and effectiveness lie in its constant immediate feedback and the guidance of a coach or mentor.

 

Are you ready to exceed your current level or performance?  In your path to mastery and being an expert, ask yourself:

How far are you willing to go?

Are you willing to pay the price to achieve your goals?

Leave a Reply