We are looking at the excellent book PEAK: secrets of the new science of expertise by Anders Ericcson and Robert Pool.
Mr. Pool helped more with the writing of the book and keeping it accessible to laypeople like you and I. Anders Ericcson is an expert on experts, who spent time studying master memorizers, chess and music superstars, top violin students in the best universities, and other top performing folks in their areas. In this book he breaks down the commonalities of the groups he saw: beginners and amateurs, journeymen and hobbyists, and masters and those who are the most successful.
I love this book and I think you will too, I highly recommend reading this. Especially to anyone who wants to be great at anything, for anyone who has something they care greatly about improving at or making a living doing.
It is written in a way that I think even high school level readers and maybe some middle schoolers can digest and appreciate. Peak takes a stand against predetermination and the lie that is talent. The lie that goes that you have a preset amount of potential and you can’t go beyond this. It destroys the lies of defeatism.
One of the things that Peak really highlights is the differences in practice between the groups.
1.The first type of practice is called Naive Practice.
Naive practice is just playing something. Just running exercises or songs with no clear goals. Naive practice seems, to me, to help us get acquainted with our instruments or activities in the early stages when we don’t have quality teachers or good relevant information to help us. We also don’t have refined mental ideas of what different actions should be. Almost no improvement was shown from naive practice, EVEN IN BULK.
2.The next type of practice the authors observed was dubbed Purposeful Practice.
Purposeful practice is the type of rehearsal that most of us achieve through out our careers. Purposeful practice is defined as practice with a relatively clear goal in mind. i.e. I will perform these runs to improve my running ability. I will play these scales to be able to better perform them. Purposeful practice is where we get, once we have some understanding and ideas about how to go about pursuing our skills. Purposeful practice may involve a teacher or an expert to guide you. For many fields this is the most advanced level of practice, partly because there is either no way of objectively judging performance in that field or because there are not enough established experts in the field or the field is too new to have developed advanced practice techniques and insights. Purposeful practice is associated with the benefits of intermediate skill. We advance some with our somewhat targeted practice, but we are still staying in our comfort zone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the principles of the third type of practice to improve your results.
The final type of practice is the most difficult and the most beneficial.
3. Deliberate practice – deliberate practice involves a few priciples: 1: the use and refinement of mental representations relevant to your field/study. 2: the ability to quickly get proper feedback in the moment. To correct mistakes and make observations on the fly, but not hours or days later. 3: the use of a top notch teacher or guide – You need someone who is deeply familiar with the processes, so that if you are a runner, they can point out your issues with form or with posture or technique. A teacher is essential to this level of practice and learning, they will focus on observing some things so you can spend more focus on your performance and improvement. 4: Pushing yourself just out of your comfort zone. This is true whether you are trying to grow musculature or to improve your mental faculties. The human body and mind love homeostasis and as such, without challenges they will revert to their natural states. This is seen most easily in former body builders who don’t throw large weights around any more nor do their intense workouts. They often lose muscle and gain some fat. The body back slides.
So we must aim to create targeted exercises and practice which is tailored to make specific improvements and then we must also practice at the very edge of our abilities. This is not fun. It is difficult and draining and requires focus. In fact the better and longer the focus of the learner is on the practice, the greater the results that have been observed.
So to reach the heights of the highest masters and to go beyond, we must employ this vital info.
We need to build and refine our mental representations (try reading through and singing a piece of music before you attempt to perform it. Listen to several performances of it by different top players)
Then we need to inform our practice by employing teachers on the level and getting near instant feedback to make adaptions in the moment.
Finally, we build our relationship with our coach or teacher, and together we create custom exercises to challenge and improve specific areas of our performance.
Sometimes, if you are skilled and knowledgeable, you may be able to be the expert that guides you, but then again we should test ourselves by still occasionally getting feedback from high level teachers and top performers in our fields. You will work with your teacher as a unit to find weaknesses and work narrowly and forcefully to improve in those areas.
That’s all for my breakdown of PEAK’s practice types.
Thank you for reading, and play some challenging notes!
If you have interest in reaching the top and beyond in your field, reach out to me and I will either help you directly or will work to find a relevant expert or teacher in your field.
Come, learn bass or guitar with me or voice or anything and I will push you to exceed your current limitations with targeted exercises and top notch information and I will help you grow in to the master that you can be.