Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, but Deliberate Practice Will Get you Closer to your Goals

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As we all painfully remember, spending hours practicing something, say like an instrument, doesn’t necessarily “make perfect.” You can bang away on a piano until your fingers bleed, but you can still sound terrible.

That’s why performance expert, K. Anders Ericsson, likes to talk about deliberate practice to help anyone struggling with  mastering anything.

In 1993, Ericsson and two of his colleagues published a study in Psychological Review disputing the claim that a person’s talent leads to their success in any given area. Instead, the so-called talented were successful due to “intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”–the footing of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-hour rule” in his book Outliers.

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Ericsson, however, went further. He contends it’s the not the quantity of hours that makes a person excellent at a skill. Rather, it’s the quality. Anyone can get good at anything if they practice it right.

But other researchers hesitate to jump on Ericsson’s bandwagon. Excellence, others say, is a result of a complex mix of factors.

Jenny Anderson, writing for Quartz, said,

“In 2014, an entire issue of the academic journal Intelligence was devoted to articles disputing Ericsson’s work.

They argued that IQ and other factors like motivation, range of motion, and the varied timing that some creative talents develop matter just as much as practice.”

Yet, this is where deliberate practice comes in.

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Practice, the way most people learn to do it, is mainly about working at something you enjoy and perhaps  you get really good at it.

Deliberate practice, on the other hand, is trying new methods, getting uncomfortable, seeking criticism and deliberately working on your weaknesses as opposed to working only on your strengths.

Let’s take that piano example a little further. Say, your kid takes up piano, likes it and plays songs that are enjoyable. Your child learns that song and goes to the next song. It’s fun, but limited.

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With a deliberate practice model, your child would take lessons, listen to feedback and work on performance pieces and compete. There would be a constant assessment of skills and a steady stream of critiques. Your kiddo would work hardest on where they struggle most and not just play fun songs.

If this level of practice continues, in time, you will likely have a real musician on your hands.

In Quartz, Ericsson does warn against pushing kids too hard.

“That creates motivational problems and forces the child to do the best they can when they don’t have 100 percent concentration.

That’s linked to developing bad habits.”

In the end, though, deliberate practice delivers a powerful message–working hard brings huge benefits. That’s good to know for learning anything at all.

Have you ever motivated your child like this? How did it turn out?

Let us know in the comments!