Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Summary
  1. An exciting and inspiring book which lays out a detailed process for how you can effectively improve and push past your potential in anything you want to undertake
Key Takeaways
  1. Mozart had something called perfect pitch but it is not some magical gift, rather he acquired it through extensive training and a very flexible and adaptable brain. We all are born with this gift to some degree. The brain can rewire itself based on the inputs it receives, though some of this flexibility disappears over time. This is an incredible thing! There are no predetermined limits and teaching and learning now becomes about reaching your full potential
  2. Ray Allen on people saying he was born with a beautiful jump shot – “Do not undermine the work I put in every day. Not most days. Every day.” Hard work alone does not lead to improvement. The right kind of practice over a long enough period of time leads to improvement – deliberate practice. Genetics of course plays a role, even to the amount somebody can sustain deliberate practice
  3. Principles of deliberate practice are the same regardless of which field you apply them in – harnessing the adaptability of the mind and body to incrementally do what you never were able to do before. Deliberate practice is all about creating efficient mental structures to help you deal with increasing amounts of information and better detect patterns
  4. Normal route of practice takes you to automaticity and at this point you stop improving unless deliberate practice is utilized
  5. Purposeful practice – having clear goals and a specific way to get there. Baby steps. Not as effective as deliberate practice. You must be willing to go outside of your comfort zone.
  6. Full focus and immediate feedback are two other key components of effective practice.
  7. When you come up against obstacles and things which push you out of your comfort zone, it’s important to try new techniques rather than bumping up against the same wall every time. Teachers, coaches and mentors are crucial at this juncture.
  8. Maintaining motivation, whether from intrinsic or extrinsic means, is important to long term success
  9. Creating mental structures to deal with large amounts of information (chunking) is crucial. Meaning aids memory
  10. As younger brains are more malleable, the earlier training starts, the more profound effect it will have
  11. Deliberate practice, unlike other types of practice, looks to push you beyond your potential by getting you out of homeostasis and forcing your brain and body to adapt
  12. There is no such thing as developing a general skill. You must train with specific movements, goals, outcomes, etc in mind
  13. Through training, experts have simply built extremely refined and specialized mental structures which help them absorb much more information than amateurs and this lets them focus on the truly important details. They can see patterns others cannot see as quickly
  14. Clear and effective mental representations help you recognize mistakes and correct them more quickly. Reducing the number of times you commit the same mistake is an important part of improving quickly 
  15. Skill and mental representations form a virtuous cycle. As one gets better, so does the other and on and on
  16. Solitary practice, sleep and afternoon naps are key differentiators between the good and the great. Both groups found the practice daunting, tiring and often not much fun. There are no shortcuts to greatness in any field no matter how talented you are
  17. A clear set of guidelines as to what constitutes superior performance and a good teacher who pushes you past your comfort zone is the difference between purposeful and deliberate practice. Informed and guided practice
  18. Subjective fields (wine experts, business managers, consultants…) are prone to biases and many “experts” in these fields are actually not when tested on objective criteria
  19. Conversing with experts in any field is helpful to try to understand how they approach their skill, training, obstacles and more. Understanding the differences between yourself and a superior performer in these ways is a great way to start your progress
  20. Knowledge vs skills. Must be able to act on your knowledge and this is part of what separates deliberate practice from other techniques. Author believes it will be necessary to replace knowledge-based training programs with skill-based programs in most fields in order to see drastic improvement
  21. It is much more effective to go 100% for a short time than 70% for longer
  22. 1 hour per day of full focus on whatever you want to improve is the minimum
  23. For children, it is important for sports or other skills to start out as fun and a game
  24. The author dispels the notion of savants and evidences that even those with great natural ability refine their skills through long, difficult, deliberate practice
  25. 3 F’s of improvement – focus, feedback, fix it
What I got out of it
  1. Ericsson’s findings are so exciting because it means that with the right mindset and training regiment, you can reach and push beyond your potential in any given field. Innate talent will only get you so far