I got a challenge for you. Could you remember all the digits below if I read them aloud 1 per second?
2 5 7 4 2 7 9 2 7 4 1 0 2 9 4 6 4 0 1 3 2 0 8 5 7 3 2 8 7 6 4 9 2 1 0 5 6 8 7 4 3 4 6 7 8 0 1 3 2 5 3 6 4 8 6 9 0 7 6 8 5 2 5 4 6 4 7 9 6 5 2 5 3 7 8 6 5 3 1 4 2 3 6 8 0 8 4
Of course not!
Especially since your memory is something that you can't really change...right?? Well...not so fast.
So that's exactly what my guy, Anders Ericsson, wanted to test. He believes that people can dramatically improve their skills IF they practice the right way...which he coined deliberate practice.
To test this theory, he recruited a college student at Carnegie Mellon University named Steve Faloon. Steve was a dedicated cross-country runner and was a prime candidate for the study because he possessed the 2 essential pre-requisites to develop any skill...
Well by the end of his first practice session, Steve could remember 7 digits...a very average performance. Then after 200+ deliberate practice sessions, Steve broke the world record by remembering over 80 digits.
Now let's dive into the 4 principles of deliberate practice so you can take your skills from average to world class!
To help us understand what we should and should not do during practice, Anders breaks down the difference between naive practive and deliberate practice.
Naive practice is how most people spend their time practicing. It's the belief that repetition will lead to improvement.
This group of people practice without specific and well defined goals, they practice on auto-pilot (meaning they do things the same way as they have in the past), they rarely receive feedback during practice, and they love staying within their comfort zone.
People that practice this way may consider themselves to have 10 years of experience, but they actually experience the same thing every year for 10 straight years. It's no wonder these people don't see improvement after the first year! And they convince themselves that the skill must be innate because practice (i.e. experience) doesn't help.
Well let's look at how Steve Faloon deliberately practiced to become a world-class performer.
Create specific & well defined micro-goals. Steve had clear practice goals during every practice session. For example, he first measured his ability to remember digits, which he remembered five his first attempt. Then he'd try six. If successful, he'd try seven. If unsuccessful at seven, he'd go back to six. Being specific about your goals is important for two reasons. First, you ensure the challenges are appropriate for your skill level. You want the challenge to be just beyond your current skill level, but not so much that you get overwhelmed. I call these 1-step challenges (which we covered in the Flow 2 Minute Drill Video). Second, being clear on your practice goals enhances instrinsic motivation because you are tracking your progress. Progress is essential. And it will help you motivate yourself to practice because it feels like an investment rather than an expense. It doesn't matter if the micro-goals are arbitrary. You just want to divide a goal (or skill) into manageable steps so there is a sense of achievement when completing each step.
Disciplined Focus. Can you dedicate a chunk of time almost every day to master your craft? Well, if you want to develop a skill - and stop wasting time - you must mentally prepare yourself by removing distractions and committing to an intense period of deliberate practice. This is so important because improving a skill typically involves a commitment to practice a mundane task with lots of repetition, focus, and intensity. Focus and intensity usually fall victim when repeating the same tasks every day and we slip into the mindless practice trap. Therefore, practicing a skill with intense focus is a skill in itself, and essential to deliberate practice.
Feedback. Feedback helps you make the necessary adjustments to improve your performance. But it's not for the faint of heart. If you are serious about improving, you must seek all feedback with an open mind and not take anything personal. Many people avoid honest feedback because they attach their self-worth to their performance. To someone with a fixed mindset, receiving negative feedback is a clear indicator that they are a failure. Giving up is the likely option, instead of embracing feedback and learning from past mistakes. Don't take it personal. Feedback - good or bad - is simply information to help you adjust and improve your performance.
Comfort zone. Once Steve succeeded with a challenge it was on to the next. He started at 5 digits then developed his skills to remember over 80 digits. He was constantly stretching his ability. He was always seeking improvement. He didn't waste time practicing at a level that he already mastered. He learned to always embrace new challenges.
Now think about your last practice session. Were you practicing naively or deliberately? Use these keys to maximize your practice time and develop your skills like a pro!
Spread the deliberate practice love by sharing these 4 keys with someone you want to help master their skills!