Bernie Anderson
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Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Perfect Practice: Another Dad-ism Proven True

My Dad, like most Dads, has a lot of Dadisms.

He passed them to my brother and me. And then on to his grandchildren, as well.

One such Dadism, I found later in life, is a Vince Lombardi quote. I think he gave Lombardi attribution - but I'm not 100% on that.

Vince Lombardi probably said this to his kids, too.

Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

When I was young, I had no idea what this meant. "Practice more" ... I guess. I didn't know.

A few years ago I stumbled upon the idea of "deliberate practice" and the lights began to come on.

I don't know who first termed "deliberate practice" in the academic world. But the idea has moved from the world of high-performance sports and music to the rest of the work-force.

Vince Lombardi (and my Dad) were correct all along. Practice must be perfect. Deliberate. Intentional.

Practice designed to improve capabilities. Intentional practice which helps you get better, whatever your level of performance.

Here are the basics.

Great guitar players practice deliberately. 

Repetition - outside of the comfort zone

I'll use the guitar as my example. If I constantly play the same four chords, in the same patterns, with the same rhythms - I may think I'm practicing. But I'm not. Deliberate practice is the hard work of rehearsing difficult chords and rhythm patterns. Ones which don't come easily. Deliberate practice isn't going to sound/look good. It's going to be constant attempt and failure - and even if the goal is achieved - it will not be done well. So we try again. And again.

Hyper-focus required

Deliberate practice is undistracted. It's not possible to multi-task. Deliberate practice will not be interrupted to check the latest newsfeed posts. It requires concentration and mental attentiveness. This is why Cal Newport's talk of "Deep Work" is so important. He makes a compelling argument. The new economy depends on learning things which are difficult to learn and producing at an elite level. These "two core abilities ... depend on your ability to perform deep work." That is - to focus on something difficult well enough, and for long enough, to reach mastery. (Newport's book is not recommended reading. It's required reading.)


Deliberate practice requires someone to from the outside to tell you about the blind spots. Whether it's your free-throws, your golf-swing, your batting stance, your piano scales, or your prose - we need feedback to get better.

Feedback is difficult. We typically don't like being told where we're missing the mark.

It's the job of a coach.

I'm writing every day. I can't afford a writing coach. But, I'm also getting feedback on my writing by running the words through the Hemingway App and through Grammarly. This is feedback which helps me get better. A poor man's coach, which is better than no feedback at all.

Improving practice improves performance. That's how we get better. Perfect practice.

And, as we all figure out at some point in life, Dad's Dadisms are usually correct.