Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Practice Is Underrated by David O'Malley

My good friend David O'Malley has been a faithful and supportive reader and asked if he could share some of his "view" from the bridge. He submitted the following column for your consideration and enjoyment.  He writes well and makes a good point. Perhaps I better practice more ....

It dawned on me, a little while ago, that my daughter was really starting to pick up on the Cello. The tortured cat sound was gone, mostly, and she was playing with a timing, skill and grace that made me enjoy the performances. “When did that happen?”, I thought.

I should provide some back story – my daughter, Zosia, is five. She has been playing for almost two years, and man, has it been a struggle. Trying to get any child to sit still and concentrate on something is tough enough, let alone when that “something” is hard to do! Late last year, we faced a very real deadline for my daughter to get good enough to make graduation by the end of term, so we resolved to do something radical.

We practiced.

Every day.

Sometimes, twice a day.

The improvements were so significant it got me to thinking, “There could be something to this whole ‘practice’ thing”.

Shortly afterwards, I had the pleasure of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, ‘Outliers’, and it turns out the whole “practice” thing isn’t as radical as I first thought. According to studies performed on the subject, and summarized in the “Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance”,  10,000 hours of dedicated, focused, practice is what it takes to become an expert at something.

Dancing, Chess, Music – turns out the Beatles put in thousands of hours performing in Hamburg, Germany, before they made it big in England, and then America.

Public Speaking, Project Management, Coding - Bill Gates did the same as a young computer programmer in high school, spending countless hours in the Computer Labs.

But less about the established Billionaires of the world – what about you? Do you strive to be recognized as an expert in your chosen field or profession? If so, what do you practice? Do you live by a strict regimen, set goals, seek feedback? How many hours have you put in? Across professions and industries, the pattern seems to be the same. Those at the top of their game have put the time in, diligently, with the expressed aim of getting better, one hour at a time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my daughter has a recital in two weeks, and we – the teacher and the student – need to practice.

Captain Joe

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