By Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
*A Book Review*
by Michael C. Gray
© 2023 by Michael C. Gray
What does it take to achieve greatness in a field?
Anders Ericsson has devoted his career to studying outstanding performers in many fields and shares the results of his studies in Peak.
When audiences see and hear the performances of great dancers and musicians, they often comment about how "gifted" they are. Ericsson has found they are gifted, but not as most observers think they are. They are gifted in their approach to learning and practicing their craft.
In almost all cases, the individual has devoted thousands of hours to deliberate practice, under the guidance of a great teacher who draws on a developed body of knowledge. The individual developed a mental representation or mental "picture" of excellent performance to work towards. They continue their practice even when it's not "fun," because they understand practice is necessary to improve performance.
What about Wolfgang Mozart, who performed before audiences at age 6 and was composing music at age 5? Wasn't he gifted? Mozart's father, Leopold, was also an accomplished musician who developed one of the first organized methods of teaching music, and began Wolfgang's instruction at age two. Leopold devoted himself almost full time to teaching Wolfgang and Wolfgang's older sister, Maria.
No "prodigies" reached expert performance with little practice.
Ericsson gives examples of outstanding achievements in mathematics, memory, violin, piano, singing, ballet, sports, "Top Gun" pilots, chess and Scrabble.
We recently saw an example in the movie, King Richard. Venus and Serena Williams were encouraged by their parents to be coached and practice tennis intensely starting as little girls and became the most highly ranked tennis players as adults.
Most people who reach this level of mastery begin learning and practicing during their preteen and teen years. For some sports and arts, like ballet, starting young is necessary for proper physical development. It's easier to teach perfect pitch to children under age 6 when their brains and hearing are more receptive to training. Most people don't have the time available to devote to lessons and practice as adults because of their work and family obligations.
In American culture, parents are hesitant to guide their children to master a skill. They want their children to enjoy their childhood and seriously pursue their interests later. Many kids mostly prefer to play video games or hang out with their friends. In examples in this book, parents lovingly guided their children to master skills the parents believed would benefit their children in their lives.
The road to mastery isn't easy. It requires dedication and hard work. I recommend that you read and study Peak for yourself and for your family.
Buy it at Amazon: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.
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