Deliberate Practice

Deliberate Practice or getting better at getting better is how Patrick Barry puts it in his writing course.

When I was a child, my parents wanted a break from us kids and decided to put us in different camps. My parents both worked, and we’re quite busy. For some reason, they had forgotten about me. It was almost summer, and time was running out for putting kids in camp. The only camp they could afford to put me in was a sports camp. Now I was a nerd, allergic to sports of any kind. Reading was my thing. At ten, I was reading the works of Aristotle. Sports was verboten; undoubtedly, something to be avoided as far as I was concerned.

The sport I was worse at was swimming, but the swimming coach saw somebody he believed with proper training could be the best. Every day after all the activities of the day were finished, I headed down to the river (maybe it was a large lake) to meet the coach, to meet what turned out to be for a young kid an exhausting activity, engaged in while all my camp friends were taking it easy around the campfire. After camp ended, when we were all back in the city, an award dinner took place for all us camp kids. I was awarded the best swimmer in the camp. I knew I deserved it because before I left, nobody could swim faster than me—nobody. The coach looked like the happiest person I’ve ever seen as he gave me the award—he had accomplished the impossible and knew it.

Patrick Berry quotes authors who have made a study of those who have become proficient at what they do—an expert. The authors are Anders Ericsson and the mathematician and science journalist Robert Pool. They have become experts about experts. The book they wrote is called Peak. I will share some of the quotes from the book: 1

“The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.”

“The practice regimen should be designed and overseen by a teacher or coach who is familiar with the abilities of expert performers.” (A writing course. A writing teacher for example. Other writers. People on WordPress.)

“Deliberate practice takes place outside one’s comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond their current abilities. Thus, it demands near maximal effort, which is generally not enjoyable.”

  1. Anders Ericsson. Peak : Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. 1st ed. Boston: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

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