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The value of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone
I’m reading Peak, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.
It’s a fascinating book so far. I just finished reading about how Anders Ericsson worked with people to help them improve their memories, and discovers techniques that explain how people are able to achieve such remarkable feats.
His study in memory is widely cited, but the results from his study apply to everything. Writing, baseball, math, weight lifting, sports, memorization, puzzles, etc.
How to get better at something
If there is something you wish to improve on, Anders Ericsson has discovered and devised the method that will help you improve, or even master, any skillset, to your full potential.
There is a lot to this book, and I only just finished the second chapter. But so far, I learned about “purposeful practice.” This is enlightening.
Most people go through life, thinking that practice means repetition. To an extent it does, but the repetitive nature of practice is useless without the purposeful desire to improve.
I was fascinated to learn that people who do something for 20 years are usually worse at the skill than people who are 4 or 5 years into their development. I learned this is especially true with doctors.
This is because doctors with decades in the field lose sight of purposeful practice. They do the same thing over and over again, and don’t put internal emphasis on improvement.
The same is true in any profession or skill.
The name of the game is improvement, not practice.
What’s the difference?
How do you practice something with an emphasis on improvement? The answer is not what you or I want to hear.
Getting out of your comfort zone
Purposeful practice means doing the thing you suck at with the sole focus on getting better at it.
What’s the problem with that statement?
It’s not fun.
This statement immediately brought me face to face with my propensity to do the things that I enjoy and make it seems as though I was practicing.
For instance, when I write, I love to write about sales and making. It’s a topic I can write about for years and never get bored of it. I avoid research because I hate research. I tell myself that “I’m writing what I’m good at.” But that’s not a way to improve.
Or I think about speed kicks at Muay Thai. Speed kicks mean throwing the same kick over and over again, as fast as you can. They are awful. They are so incredibly exhausting. Worst of all, my trainer always saves them for the end of our training session to completely gas me out and make me practice them when I’m tired.
My trainer understands that these drills are part of deliberate practice. If it were up to me, we would just do sparring and pad work the entire class, because those exercises are fun.
But speed kicks are where the growth is. As is always the case with growth, it hurts… bad.
Yesterday I was noticeably better at speed kicks than ever before.
There is a difference between practice and improvement. I am seeing that so clearly this morning.