It has been a few months now since I first self published my e-book: “Playing It to Excellence and Happiness in Real Life“. In it, I described five concepts that I believe can help one reach excellence and happiness in life: 1. Focus on the process; 2. Use your comparative advantage; 3. Be passionate; 4. Communicate; 5. Call it as you see it.
From time to time I encounter things that could potentially have been included in my e-book. More quotes, more examples, etc. Off course, it is a little too late now. But, I guess that is why I have this blog. I have been reading an article from the New York Times Freakonomics section called: “A Star Is Made“. In it, the writers describe a research done by Professor Anders Ericsson, that tries to explain why people are so good at what they do. And while I was reading it, I felt like I was reading my own e-book. So, I decided to put the relevant quotes here. And let you do the job:
Focus on the process
The trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers – whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming – are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.
Use your comparative advantage
“I think the most general claim here,” Ericsson says of his work, “is that a lot of people believe there are some inherent limits they were born with. But there is surprisingly little hard evidence that anyone could attain any kind of exceptional performance without spending a lot of time perfecting it.” This is not to say that all people have equal potential. Michael Jordan, even if he hadn’t spent countless hours in the gym, would still have been a better basketball player than most of us. But without those hours in the gym, he would never have become the player he was.
Ericsson’s research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love – because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don’t like to do things they aren’t “good” at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don’t possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.
Communicate (the importance of feedback):
Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task – playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.