Sunday, March 15, 2009

Deliberate Practice

So you want to be great? You want to be successful? You want to be one of the best in your field? Really? Is that so?

Whether it's a sport, art, music, writing, your career, or your business, you've had dreams and visions of being #1. Winning it all. Achieving the ultimate top level.

But the truth is, it doesn't matter what you say you want - it only matters what you do to get what you want.

Think of the people who have been, or currently are, at the top of their game. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Warren Buffet (his company's stock, Berkshire Hathaway, though down, is still trading at about $82,000 per share), Michael Phelps, Beyonce, Bobby Fischer (chess grandmaster at 16), Serena Williams, or Bill Gates.

What do all of these people have in common? How about commitment, dedication, and countless hours of studying and practicing. Now think about your situation. How much time do you dedicate to your goal? Think back over the last three months - pull out a pen and a piece of paper - write down how much time you given to your goal. Was it at least 3 hours a day? 2 hours a day? Twice a week? Once a month? Does the time you've devoted to your goal reflect the fact that you want to be the best - or at the very least improve?

But I want to be clear. Studying or practicing for the sake of studying or practicing isn't the goal. Check out this portion from an article written by Geoffrey Colving, senior editor-at-large at Fortune Magazine:

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." It's activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

For example: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don't get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day - that's deliberate practice.

Consistency is crucial. As Ericsson notes, "Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends."
Evidence crosses a remarkable range of fields. In a study of 20-year-old violinists by Ericsson and colleagues, the best group (judged by conservatory teachers) averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000. It's the same story in surgery, insurance sales, and virtually every sport. More deliberate practice equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.

So what is "deliberate practice" for you? Whatever your field, I encourage you to get serious and fill your days with deliberate practice.


  1. You are absolutely right. We often see people who emerge as successful and think to ourselves that that individual must of had a competitive advantage or knew someone who helped them to get there. If we see a new actor or recording artist hitting the scene we often say that they are an "overnight success". Most times this is not the case. What we are actually seeing are the results of the deliberate practice that you mentioned. There is very little that can be accomplished without laser focus on our objective, even with someone there to assist you.

  2. Great information! A wise person once said "The same ain't the same unless it's the same". It is interesting the people that state the aspire to the successful levels of many famous people-whatever the field. Well, rarely do I see these people putting in the time, effort, dedication or "deliberate practice"that it takes to put them there. Tawana