The process to greatness is practice. But, it’s not just practice, it’s deliberate practice.
What is deliberate practice? Geoff Colvin, the author of “Talent is Overrated”, gives an overview: “Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.”
So, what are the specifics of deliberate practice? Some of them – the book has more – are: “[An] activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; [and] it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual … or heavily physical …”
Let’s look at each characteristic of deliberate practice individually.
A designed activity to improve performance
Here is where a teacher or mentor is important. A teacher – the right teacher – knows what and how something needs to be practiced to improve performance. So, to ensure your doing the right things in the right way, get a competent teacher.
It can be repeated a lot
Colvin writes, “High repetition is the most important difference between deliberate practice of a task and performing the task for real…”. There seems to be no shortcut. As noted above, “More [deliberate practice] equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.”
Feedback on results
I like the example given in the book : “Practicing without feedback is like bowling though a curtain that hangs down to knee level.” Bowling under that condition would make it impossible to see the results of your effort. Without seeing the results of your efforts, it would be very difficult to improve.
It’s highly demanding mentally
Deliberate practice takes a great deal of mental activity. It is not mindless play. “Continually seeking exactly those elements of performance that are unsatisfactory and then trying one’s hardest to make them better places enormous strains on anyone’s mental abilities.”
Deliberate practice separates world class performers from all others. The good news is that deliberate practice is something you and I can do … if we dare.
[Note: This is the second blog in a series of blogs titled, “A Message For Our Children: Talent is Overrated”. A third blog will be posted the week of August 22, 2011.].
[Note: Throughout this series, please keep in mind that the author has the utmost respect for and understanding of obstacles that cannot be overcome with practice. It would be a mistake to prescribe practice and more of it for every child who has difficulty acquiring mastery of a subject or achieving a goal. At some point it might well be time to determine the difference between “dead ends” and “detours”. For information on that subject, please read Dr. Jerome Stewart’s Blog titled, “Dead End or Detour?”].