Dan McLaughlin quit his job in April 2010, and with absolutely no experience at golf, he decided to dedicate himself to the game through 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. He is almost halfway through the 10,000 hours and now has a handicap of four. So the practice is clearly making an impact. You can track his progress at thedanplan.com.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, popularized the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a field. The theory originated with Anders Ericsson, a professor at the University of Colorado, who emphasized not just the 10,000 hours but also the deliberate practice required to become great at something. In other words, without deliberate practice, the 10,000 hours rule could cause you to waste a lot of time.
So what exactly is deliberate practice? In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin offers five essentials to deliberate practice:
- The practice is designed to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help.
- The practice activity can be regularly repeated.
- The practice activity provides feedback on a continual basis.
- The practice is highly demanding mentally.
- The practice isn’t much fun.
Based on Colvin’s framework, here are five questions to consider with respect to your own personal development:
1. Who is your teacher?
We never outgrow the need for others to pour into us, to offer perspective, coaching, and encouragement. If you teach, whom do you ask to evaluate your teaching? If you are an artist, who helps guide you? If you lead a group of people, whom do you bounce leadership questions off of?
2. Are you redeeming the repetition in your work?
All of us have rhythm in our roles, things we do over and over again. It is possible, though, to do these things without improving. It is possible to go through the motions. Deliberate practice means we approach the repetition through a lens of learning and growing. We push ourselves in the midst of routine and repetition.
3. Where are you asking for feedback?
We cannot grow without correction and encouragement. We need people alongside us whom we have empowered to give us feedback.
4. Where are you being stretched?
Discomfort breeds growth. If the work is never mentally demanding, we stay in our comfort zones where growth does not occur.
5. Are you willing to endure things that are not fun?
Practice often is not fun because we are not yet proficient in the new things we are attempting. But without new opportunities and discomfort, we won’t progress in our development.