Authors: Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
This book is an extension of the growth mindset. If you haven’t read the book Growth Mindset by Carol S Dweck then I would highly recommend reading it. That opens the door for this one – in my opinion. I was looking through my archives and realized that I never posted a review for that book!! That makes me so sad because I really enjoyed that one and would definitely want everyone to read about it. Anyway, this review is about this book so let’s get the train on the track.
The author talks about how to be an expert at something and after reading the book I thought to myself wow that was a really thick book just telling you how to become an expert at a sport, music or anything else. However now that it’s been a couple of days since I read it, I feel that it was important to have that much content to drive the point.
In the authors’ opinion (which I’m fully subscribing to), you can become an expert if you want to. There’s no such thing as “you need to be born with a talent”. They quote various studies and have also studied some of the famous people like Mozart to understand how people like Mozart get to where they were. Or Roger Federer for that matter. It was not because they had the music gene(or the sports gene) in them. There’s a lot of hard work behind it and a lot of targeted hard work. They use the term “purposeful practice” that will get you skilled at anything. Purposeful practice is defined as one where:
- You have well defined specific goals.
- You get feedback at every step. There’s no point practicing if you don’t get feedback on how to improve what you practiced. That could be coming from you or from a teacher or somebody else.
- You get out of the comfort zone. To keep making progress you will need to step out of your comfort zone. Otherwise you will stagnate.
This is not easy. When you are not good at something, to keep going at it in the hope that you will get better one day is not easy. You need a lot of motivation for that and there are techniques for that as well. One of them you make it a habit. If you want to learn to play an instrument, make it a habit to play it every morning at 7am. Then it becomes like just another thing you do every day.
However this will not get you to become an expert. The authors opine that you can become an expert at any field where the progress can be measured and somebody else has already been an expert at that. Latter is important because then you can use the techniques used by people before you and even improvise on them; as well as you can get teachers/trainers who have already studied the experts in that field to analyze what’s the best way to practice.
That said there may be other hurdles in you trying to become an expert. The younger you start learning something the easier it is to become an expert as your brain is more adaptable. That means your parents need to be dedicated to whatever it is that you are learning and should be able to take you to the practice sessions and all. That you should be able to afford the resources that you need.
After reading the book, I feel that if somebody is an expert at something and we say “oh he/she was born with xyz” or “he/she has natural talent” then we are undermining the effort and hard work the person put in getting to where they are.
Highly recommend reading this book!