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Bro Kaizen

The young man’s growth mindset

Deliberate Practice

If you’re overweight, you don’t earn physical fitness by spending three days doing a cardio circuit with your roomate, two days following a diet that your girlfriend invented, four days with Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, and then going to sit on the couch. A piecemeal (and half-heartedly implemented) approach like that is destined to fail.

But fear not—there is a better way:

The better approach is called “deliberate practice,” a term that I have shamelessly stolen from Geoff Colvin, James Clear, and others.

I. An Implementation of the Growth Mentality’s Objectives

Deliberate practice is the best-known method for executing or implementing the objectives decided by your growth mentality. In fact, participating in deliberate practice is such a strong predictor of success in a variety of athletic and intellectual fields (even chess!) that it has been called an “unfair advantage.” Needless to say, at this blog, we try to deploy the maximum possible quantity of unfair advantages in your favor.

Let’s construct a short working definition of deliberate practice by examining its attributes:

  • DP is goal driven, ie. is working towards some objective (bowling 70 km per hour in cricket consistently/learning 100 Pashto words per week/whatever)
  • DP involves breaking complex tasks down into tiny, mechanical chunks that require no talent ie. 1) Sit in your chair in a silent room, 2) load Rosetta Stone software, 3) Repeat Pashto phrases back to the computer for 1 hour, etc. Each of those could easily be done by a very stupid person, who would balk utterly if I commanded him to “Learn Pashto!”
  • DP is repeatable, ie. you can come back tomorrow and learn more Pashto vocabulary using the same (sit >> load software >> repeat words) algorithm as you used today
  • DP involves a tight iterative feedback loop, where good or bad outcomes are connected to your actions in near real time. For example, the Rosetta Stone software will grade your pronunciation as soon as you finish talking.
  • DP is difficult

II. The Imposition of Regularity on Seemingly Dissimilar Problem Domains

In a way, DP is a method for standardizing disparate problem domains. Rather than discovering a new meta-method for improvements in each sphere of your life, you can try to make the problem fit a DP shaped mold. So once you’ve gained proficiency in deliberate practice, you’ll start to abstract away the complexity in learning widely different skills. Learning good bowling form in cricket will start to seem rather like the process of figuring out node.js, which in turn will seem similar to developing a humorous personality.

III. The Fault Tolerant Temperament

Of course, deliberate practice likely won’t work perfectly the first time you try it, and in fact you might discover, midway through learning a given skill, that it will never work at all. And that’s fine—perhaps you need expert instruction, a reliable reference text, or some other boost. Albert Einstein famously quipped, “If we knew what the hell we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?” The point is that a methodical approach is certainly better than flailing about a-systematically. After you approach a few disparate problems like this, you will start to develop a very handy sort of DP-intuition that will serve in very good stead for years to come.