Hey there. I'm pretty stoked you actually made it back. 

Get this: for a few years now, I've known about deliberate practice (It's a strategy for practicing.  I'll explain, don't worry.).  A few weeks ago, a conversation with a friend led me straight into the realization that I had never bothered to about using deliberate practice for anything but piano (namely, life).  And, well, It's been quite a wild ride since.  Now, let me try to explain what deliberate practice is and why it's extremely relevant.

Think for a second about how you learned to walk.  You most likely saw people around you walking and thought it might be a useful skill to acquire.  Additionally, those around you were probably encouraging (or forcing) you to give it a try. So, you did.  You tried and failed over and over again.  Now, every time that you failed, two things were happening: your muscles were getting stronger and you were subconsciously acquiring data about how (not) to balance. A couple hundred (or thousand) attempts later, you finally took your first step. You muscles were finally strong enough and your brain had enough data to figure out how the whole balance thing worked.  This very natural sequence of learning is at the heart of all skill acquisition (practice). Check it out.. 

Now, skip a few years to when you (probably) learned to ride a bike.  Given that your brain had matured since you were learning how to walk, you were now able to analyze your failures and make conscious tweaks to your technique.  It's very unlikely that you were thinking strategically about learning to ride your bike.  Even still, you learned by making conscious observations about your failures (e.g., if I start too slowly, I'll fall over).  The process probably went a bit like this.. 

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You might have spent a while in the frustrating 'mindless attempt -> failure' loop.  I definitely did.  Regardless, the realizations and tweaks you accumulated had you riding around the block in no time.  Now get this: without thinking twice about it, you were employing a primitive (and unnecessarily frustrating) version of deliberate practice.

In order to bump it to the next level and remove unnecessary frustration, two things have to happen: first, the 'realizations' must be converted into 'analysis and hypothesis creation' and second, all mindless attempts must be eliminated.  Let's say I was trying to learn how to nail a free-throw shot in basketball.  I'd start by attempting.  Then, I'd analyze what happened and make a hypothesis as to why I failed or how I could improve (e.g., analysis: it was too short and too far left. hypothesis: I need to throw it with a bit more force, a bit higher, and a bit more to the right.  I'm going to try that by putting a bit more force in my right arm and this time releasing it from a higher position.).  Then, I'd try again applying those things.  That process, I'd repeat until I was sufficiently satisfied with my abilities.  Simple enough, right?  Check it out..

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You may remember a few times in your life when you really really wanted to learn how to do something and you ended up using deliberate practice somewhat accidentally.  In most aspects of your life, however, your primitive deliberate practice very likely degenerated to mindless repetition.  Don't get me wrong: the ability to move skills that were once impossible for you to execute into the mindlessly repeatable category is not only necessary but ridiculously incredible.  Imagine for a second that you still had to consciously think about every step you took, every syllable you pronounced, etc. . . For one, you'd probably go insane.  Secondly, you likely wouldn't have time to do or learn much of anything else.  Yes, it would be awful.

The harm of mindless repetition?  Well, when you're on 'automatic', you are no longer practicing 'deliberately'.  And when you aren't practicing deliberately, you are (for all intensive purposes) slamming the brakes on your rate of improvement.  You are returning to the 'subconscious' form of practice you relied on to learn how to walk.  Yikes.

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that you go around thinking about every step you take and all of that.  What I am getting at, though, is that you decide to deliberately practice those skills in life which are always in need of improvement.  At least, that's what I'm going to be doing.  I even made a list.  Check it out..

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I got to thinking: If I'm so willing to spend hours and hours a day deliberately practicing how to play the piano better, how is it that I have never once deliberately practiced how to be a human better?  And, if I deliberately practiced these skills which I actually need most, how much better would all of the other aspects of my life be?  

Anyway, that's about all I've got for this weeks post. Now it's your turn to hit up the comments section and let me know what you think.  Here are a few questions to spark your imagination:

  • Why was/wasn't this helpful for you?
  • Do you ever use deliberate practice in your life?  If not, why not?
  • In which ways do you/will you use deliberate practice that could be useful for me/others to hear about and consider?  
  • Is there a facet of this you've thought of that I didn't include? 

much love, JG

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