Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to be an expert

This is not an oracle post but is very interesting and enthusiastic.Have a read!

The only thing standing between you-as-amateur and you-as-expert is dedication. 

Seriously. How many people think they've missed their opportunity to be a musician, or an expert golfer, or even a chess grand master because they didn't start when they were young? Or because they simply lacked natural talent? Those people are (mostly) wrong. According to some brain scientists, almost anyone can develop world-class (or at least top expertise) abilities in things for which they aren't physically impaired. Apparently God-given talent, natural "gifts", and genetic predispositions just aren't all they're cracked up to be. Or at least not in the way most of us always imagined. It turns out that rather than being naturally gifted at music or math or chess or whatever, a superior performer most likely has a gift for concentration, dedication, and a simple desire to keep getting better. In theory, again, anyone willing to do what's required to keep getting better WILL get better.

Maybe the "naaturally talented artist" was simply the one who practiced a hell of a lot more. Or rather, a hell of a lot more deliberately. Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, has spent most of his 20+ year career on the study of genuises, prodigies, and superior performers. In the book The New Brain (it was on my coffee table) Richard Restak quotes Ericsson as concluding:

"For the superior performer the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance. That's why they don't find practice boring. Each practice session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time."

So it's not just how long they practice, it's how they practice.