But there is one very important thing to understand here: once you have reached this satisfactory skill level and automated your performance—your driving, your tennis playing, your baking of pies—you have stopped improving.
Anders Ericcson, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
“I have this theory. Maybe just because it’s me. If I don’t practice it goes down. And just to stay equal, even, I have to work. To improve I have to work harder.”
Renowned guitarist John McLaughlin
I’m well into my reading of Peak by Anders Ericcson and Robert Pool, my selection for the July 8 First Friday Book Synopsis.
Mr. Ericsson is the one who came up with/identified the 10,000 hour rule. But, as he says in this book, it’s not just any 10,000 hours. You remember the long-standing wisdom from piano teachers:
It’s not practice makes perfect. It’s perfect practice makes perfect.
Well, in this book, it’s even more than “perfect practice.” It’s “purposeful practice, that leads to deliberate practice.”
And – and this is key – it’s practice that intentionally stretches you to get better at what you are doing. And, by the way, this is for anything that you want to get better at. The book begins with a description of a man who met daily to increase the number of numbers he could learn at any one time. The average, for everybody, is 7-9. He got up to dozens and dozens – with intentional, purposeful, deliberate practice.
But, back to that “you have stopped improving” problem. The book says that the normal pattern is: you get “good enough” to get by, and you stop there. You “automate your performance.” And, from that point on, you never get appreciably better. You stop working at getting better. You have stopped improving.
So, you have to ask yourself – what can you do adequately, passably? Why don’t you pick one of those areas, and work on getting better – noticeably better?!
That’s the challenge. It’s easy to stop improving. In fact, that happens “naturally.” It takes work, over the long haul, to keep getting better.