CareerPersonal Growth

Effort Transforms the Body and the Mind—If You Want It To

Swedish psychologist and Florida State University professor K. Anders Ericsson has studied what makes masters in various fields (sports, business, etc.) different from the rest of society. The major trend he has uncovered in all cases is that expert ability truly comes from… just making a daily effort to improve. An interview with Ericsson by Tricia van der Grient uncovers some of his insights.

Deliberate and Determined

Ericsson says “the experts developed their abilities through an orderly sequence of gradual changes in their muscles and brains which allowed them to improve their physical movements and the quality of their thinking and perception.” Of course, regular people undergo such a process from time to time too, such as in learning to cook. The difference between regular people and experts is that regular people quietly allow their skills to plateau, even if they continue using that skill (really? That same dry chicken for dinner again?). Experts make a deliberate effort to continue improving past plateaus, which often involves seeking teachers, coaches, and other learning experiences.

You may have heard the proposed statistic in the past that becoming a master of something requires a whopping 10,000 hours of practice. Ericsson actually takes issue with this though, in that “practice” is separate from the “deliberate practice” described above. Plus, some skills just take more time to develop than others:

To win an international piano competition you need over 20,000 hours, while our trained memory experts were able to become the best in the world in 1970s with less than 1,000 hours of practice. My greatest concern about the “10,000-hour rule” is that it has caused many people to think that they need to accumulate 10,000 hours of experience—as opposed to deliberate practice—in order to attain expert performance. Our reviews shows that simply accumulating a large amount of professional experience does little to improve one’s performance.

While some people do indeed exhibit more natural skill in certain areas than others, that is just a starting point. Deliberate practice—with an emphasis on gathering high-level external feedback—makes the real difference. If nothing else, take away from this article that high effort will result in high results, if that effort is highly focused and purposeful.

You can view the interview here:

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