Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

abilities gradually deteriorate in the absence of deliberate efforts to improve. So

A world in which deliberate practice is a normal part of life would be one in which people had more volition and satisfaction.

Call it “the New Year’s resolution effect”— it’s why gyms that were crowded in January are only half full in July and why so many slightly used guitars are available on Craigslist. So

Consider this: Most people live lives that are not particularly physically challenging. They sit at a desk, or if they move around, it’s not a lot. They aren’t running and jumping, they aren’t lifting heavy objects or throwing things long distances, and they aren’t performing maneuvers that require tremendous balance and coordination. Thus they settle into a low level of physical capabilities—enough for day-to-day activities and maybe even hiking or biking or playing golf or tennis on the weekends, but far from the level of physical capabilities that a highly trained athlete possesses.

Even the most motivated and intelligent student will advance more quickly under the tutelage of someone who knows the best order in which to learn things, who understands and can demonstrate the proper way to perform various skills, who can provide useful feedback, and who can devise practice activities designed to overcome particular weaknesses.

If you talk to these extraordinary people, you find that they all understand this at one level or another. They may be unfamiliar with the concept of cognitive adaptability, but they seldom buy into the idea that they have reached the peak of their fields because they were the lucky winners of some genetic lottery. They know what is required to develop the extraordinary skills that they possess because they have experienced it firsthand. One of my favorite testimonies on this topic came from Ray Allen, a ten-time All-Star in the National Basketball Association and the greatest three-point shooter in the history of that league. Some years back, ESPN columnist Jackie MacMullan wrote an article about Allen as he was approaching his record for most three-point shots made. In talking with Allen for that story, MacMullan mentioned that another basketball commentator had said that Allen was born with a shooting touch—in other words, an innate gift for three-pointers. Allen did not agree. “I’ve argued this with a lot of people in my life,” he told MacMullan. “When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot, it really pisses me off. I tell those people, ‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day. Ask anyone who has been on a team with me who shoots the most. Go back to Seattle and Milwaukee, and ask them. The answer is me.” And, indeed, as MacMullan noted, if you talk to Allen’s high school basketball coach you will find that Allen’s jump shot was not noticeably better than his teammates’ jump shots back then; in fact, it was poor. But Allen took control, and over time, with hard work and dedication, he transformed his jump shot into one so graceful and natural that people assumed he was born with it. He took advantage of his gift—his real gift.   ABOUT

Imagine a world in which doctors, teachers, engineers, pilots, computer programmers, and many other professionals honed their skills in the same way that violinists, chess players, and ballerinas do now. Imagine a world in which 50 percent of the people

In a field you’re already familiar with—like your own job—think carefully about what characterizes good performance and try to come up with ways to measure that, even if there must be a certain amount of subjectivity in your measurement. Then look for those people who score highest in the areas you believe are key to superior performance. Remember that the ideal is to find objective, reproducible measures that consistently distinguish the best from the rest, and if that ideal is not possible, approximate it as well as you can. Once

Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it.

Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it. We

one could define a mental representation as a conceptual structure designed to sidestep the usual restrictions that short-term memory places on mental processing. The

The best way to get past any barrier is to come at it from a different direction, which is one reason it is useful to work with a teacher or coach.

The first step toward enhancing performance in an organization is realizing that improvement is possible only if participants abandon business-as-usual practices. Doing so requires recognizing and rejecting three prevailing myths.

the key to improved mental performance of almost any sort is the development of mental structures that make it possible to avoid the limitations of short-term memory and deal effectively with large amounts of information at once.

The reason that most people don’t possess these extraordinary physical capabilities isn’t because they don’t have the capacity for them, but rather because they’re satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it. They live in the world of “good enough.” The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in,

This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.

We can shape our own potential. Art

What is the exact nature of the ability? and, What sorts of training made it possible? In thirty years of looking, I have never found an ability that could not be explained by answering these two questions.

With practice, you began to recognize entire words by themselves. C-A-T became simply cat, thanks to a mental representation that encoded the pattern of the letters in that word and associated that pattern with both the sound of the word and the idea of a small, furry animal that meows and often doesn’t get along well with dogs. Along

you have to keep upping the ante: run farther, run faster, run uphill. If you don’t keep pushing and pushing and pushing some more, the body will settle into homeostasis, albeit at a different level than before, and you will stop improving. This