Bernie Anderson
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Get Better With Deliberate Practice (And One Other Essential Thing)

The idea of deliberate practice is not a new one.

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe research scientist Dr. K. Anders Ericsson is where the term originated. His research on elite performers was where Malcolm Gladwell derived the popular "10,000-hour rule". Gladwell wrote about this in his book, "Outliers".

Gladwell's conclusion is, essentially, if anyone does one thing for enough time she will achieve success at a meaningful level. 10,000 hours being a good rule of thumb.

This has now been mythologized, and, to a certain extent, debunked. At the very least, Gladwell's conclusion is incomplete.

Ericsson's research, though popularized in Gladwell's book, was somewhat misunderstood and not given a full presentation. (This is the danger of the pop-science genre of writing. Scientific research is often more nuanced than we'd like).

Here's what Ericsson, himself, told writer Maria Popova of Brain Pickings fame:

You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal. You have to tweak the system by pushing, allowing for more errors at first as you increase your limits.
— Dr. K. Anders Ericsson

Deliberate practice. We talk about this here a lot. I think it's important.

But there's another piece to Ericsson's research which didn't get the coverage it should have in Gladwell's book.

There were two factors which were consistent with the group of elite violinists in Ericsson's study, deliberate practice being one.

The other is an average of 8 hours 36 minutes of sleep every night.

These peak performers also took more naps.

Yup. More sleep. Not less sleep.

And it's not just violin players.

Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, and Bill Gates are each reported to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Interestingly enough, Donald Trump boasts of 3 hours of sleep every night.

The correlation between sleep and high-performance is evident.

Check out Anders Ericsson's book "Peak: Secrets from the new science of expertise" for more on this topic.

For further reading, you should also check out Daniel Goleman's book called "Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence" and my perennial favorite "Deep Work" by Cal Newport.

Leadership and creativity are about doing what's necessary to get better. If we care about the professionalization of our work, the consensus seems to lead in the same direction.

Better practice and better sleep are key to our development as leaders and creators.

That's how we might do the most good.

Bernie AndersonComment