Life, Personal Development, Transformation

Deliberate Practice


Great advertisements make us reflect and leave a lasting impact. For many years, I believed 99% Perspiration and 1% inspiration was originally crafted by a talcum powder brand.

The ad was inspiring, Mr. Edison is more real.

Thomas Alva Edison coined this unforgettable phrase: “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”. His life has been nothing less than inspiration for many. Mr. Edison has 1093 patents to his name and his creations laid foundations for a modern world.

Mr. Edison is right, genius isn’t special. Genius term is overused, more often for a God-like status and therefore such glorification becomes beyond human reach. In other context, genius is born and hence few are gifted and therefore cannot be acquired. We are comforted by the fact that “Geniuses” are born and not made.

Mr. Malcolm Gladwell’ Book Outlier proposes “10,000 Hours” rule for an expert. This is minimum time for you to acquire skill. Another book “Grit” by Angela Duckworth, is another fascinating description of practice and perseverance, corroborates and extends Mr. Gladwell’s proposition. According to Ms Duckworth, “Grittier people typically stick with their commitment longer than others, and simply spent more time on task”.

She further states:

It is persistent desire to do better. It is opposite of being complacent. But it is positive state of mind, not a negative one. It’s not looking back with dissatisfaction. It’s looking forward and wanting to grow”

Genius and talent is overrated. Practice is tough, single-minded devotion to one goal is difficult.

Ashoke clocked his best time 3.23 hours in marathon last year, which was after 6 years of deliberate practice. In his first marathon, Ashoke limped back to the finish line. His 6 years of practice was towards one goal, to better the time and qualify for Boston, which I’m very confident, he will do so this year. In his pursuit to achieve his goal, Ashoke logged many hours of deliberate practice. Therefore it is not necessary that a 10,000 hours investment will make you an expert. Deliberate practice will. The purpose of the time defines the goal.

My previous organisation, would conduct a minimum of 100 experiments (A/B tests) per week with a fixed objective to improve the customer experience. This differentiated us from the competition.

Jiro, the Michelin Star Chef, has his apprentice marinate tuna till the apprentice graduates to the next level.

Experts spend thousands and thousands of hours in deliberate practice. Ms. Duckworth further qualifies how expert practice:

“First, they stretch a goal, zeroing in on just one narrow aspect of their overall performance. Rather than focus on what they already do well, experts strive to improve specific weakness. they intentionally seek out challenges they cannot meet.”

So, what we end of witnessing is a masterpiece which is equated to genius and wow. What we don’t see is the infinite aggregate of small packets of efforts put in, ordinary and commonplace through deliberate practice to shape the outcome.

High performance is small mundanes put together.

Here are my two suggestion for making the deliberate practice a habit:

  1. Have a daily ritual, which you stick with everyday (your goal in perspective)
  2. Challenge a specific weakness everyday (what is taking you away from your goal)

It is guaranteed to be bumpy ride, but at the end of it you would say “I LOVED It!” and won’t regret even a bit of it.

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