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Misconceptions of becoming an expert

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There is a misconception in the world, that people who we consider experts in their field have attained that achievement due to their gifts or luck. However, Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool have researched the top experts in different fields with the goal of understanding how they became the very best. In this essay, I want to write a few misconceptions that I had about practicing and learning.

 Types of practice

There are different types of practice, Purposeful Practice which is when a person tries to push him/herself to improve. This tends to be the normal type of practice that we recur when we want to improve in something. We set a goal and we practice until we reach the goal. This way is effective, however is not always the most efficient. Ericsson and Pool introduce Deliberate Practice. This is a more efficient way of practicing because it requires a more objective way of doing things. Keeping record of things, studying and investigating. Like Ericsson and Pool mention “Deliberate practice is purposeful and informed.”

Few Misconceptions I Had

 Experts = Gifted

Yes and No. What Ericsson and Pool discovered in their studies was the number of hours that experts in their field had accumulated in their practices. What they found was that if you selected a group of people, and divided the in two categories: best and average. The people that were considered the best had also consistently accumulated more solo practice hours than someone in the “average” category.

So, they provided proof to something we all really knew but did not wanted to accept. People who excel in their field have worked hard for it. If you are the best it is because you worked hard for it.

A second misconception we have is on talented people. We think that the best people in their field are the most talented because they have gift. However, Ericsson and Pool mention two differences. There are people with gifts, let’s say someone with a perfect pitch, this will give them advantages or head-start in their field. However, if they do not develop and work their advantage their gift will get lost. In the contrary if someone else isn’t born with that advantage they will be able to reach the same level by putting the hours of practice and work.

In two sentences:

There are people with gifts but if they do not develop them, they will lose their gifts.

There are people without gifts who are able to develop them through practice.


More time practicing = Effective practice

Not too long ago I had this thought in my brain: “If I live long enough in Finland, I’ll eventually learn Finnish.” I associated time with learning which was my first mistake. What I learned from Peak was that practicing for long periods of time without making it effective is going to give the same result as not practicing at all.

10,000-Rule is Fake News

Last year I read the book Outliers, which bases its assumptions in Ericsson and Pool’s research. However, it was interesting to read about how wrong the author of Outliers was. In the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell the author mentioned the “10,000-hour rule” which mentions that the time to become an expert in a field takes 10,000 hours of practice. However, the authors of peak describe that this is not completely true as Gladwell had based this rule in one study Ericsson and Pool had done on ballerinas. They had asked the ballerinas how many hours they had practiced since they started dancing, until their current age of 22 years old. By that age they had attained an average of 11,000 hours. However, this number was an average of all the ballerinas, which mean that some of them had practiced more and some had practiced less.

In overall this book helped me realize the misconceptions and preconceived ideas I had on practicing and learning. As well now I understand more efficient ways of practicing and improving my own learning.

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