Becoming an “Expert”

Want to learn to do something really well? Maybe even become and expert?

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Anders Ericsson of FSU and his work on what it takes to become an “expert” you might enjoy this link…

For years, Ericsson and his team have been investigating what it takes to become highly skilled, i.e., an expert. They studied everything from memory to chess to music to sports. What they found is that years of “practice” have very little correlation to skill level. Instead, what matters is HOW you practice. Although his work is often cited with the note that it takes at least 10,000 – hours of practice to become highly skilled at something, the research concludes that DELIBERATE PRACTICE is the essential ingredient.

DELIBERATE PRACTICE requires remaining in conscious control while practicing. Ericsson notes that experts do three things while practicing to increase their skills:

1. Focus on their technique – what they are doing and how they are doing it
2. Orient toward a goal – what it is they are trying to do/achieve
3. Get constant and immediate feedback – what they actually did and what effect it had

Perhaps most powerful of all is his observation that learning requires us to consciously challenge ourselves, allow ourselves to fail, review what we did and learn from our mistakes. He suggests as Feldenkrais did that we actually practice failing.

An interesting point is that at no time can intuition (unconscious action developed through repeated practice) substitute for continued deliberate practice. Even those who are highly skilled can lose their abilities if they do not continue to challenge themselves. He uses the example of radiologists whose skills diminish over time due to lack of feedback – they think they know what they are doing but because they don’t get immediate feedback they can only assume that what they are doing is what they want to do.

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