Intelligence and ability are not set in concrete at birth. They can be developed. [Genetic differences] aren’t straightjackets holding us in place, they are bungee cords waiting to be stretched and stretched,” (p. 39).
In his book, “The Genius in All of Us”, David Shenk included the research of Anders Ericcson’s team. “Like all good scientists, their approach has been to break down athletic, intellectual, and artistic achievements into tiny, measurable components in order to determine the mediocre from the good, the good from the very good, the very good from the extraordinary,” (p. 53).
In their research over the last thirty years, the researchers found five common themes among those who strive for greatness. The last two are relevant to this blog.
Practice Style is Crucial
“Ordinary practice, where your current skill level is simply being reinforced, is not enough to get better. It takes a special kind of practice to force your mind and body into the kind of change necessary to improve,” (pp. 53 and 54).
The special kind of practice needed to reach for greatness is “deliberate practice.”
“For deliberate practice to work, the demands have to be serious and sustained. Simply playing lots of chess or soccer or golf isn’t enough. Simply taking lessons from a wonderful teacher is not enough. Simply wanting it badly enough is not enough. Deliberate practice requires a mind-set of never, ever, being satisfied with your current ability. It requires a constant self-critique, a pathological restlessness, a passion to aim consistently beyond one;s capability so that daily disappointment and failure is actually desired, and a never-ending resolve to dust oneself off and try again and again and again,” (p. 55).
Long-Term Commitment is Necessary
The full title of this finding is, “Short-term intensity cannot replace long-term commitment.”
The research behind the idea is that it is “Physiologically … impossible to become great overnight,” (p. 54). “Outstanding skill in any domain is rarely achieved in less than ten thousand hours of practice over ten years’ time …” (p. 57).
There are no shortcuts to greatness. One required investment is time.
Wanting to be great may be a starting point, but, alone, it is not enough to achieve greatness. The messages of deliberate practice and commitment describe part of that which is necessary for greatness.
Of course, there is much more on the subject of dynamic development in the book “The Genius in All of Us.” The topics in this blog “Practice Style is Crucial” and “Long-Term Commitment is Necessary” represent but a fraction of what was written by David Shenk and can be found in other writings.
The fourth and final blog in this series is titled, “The Genius in All of Us (IV): Development Practices.”