Do you know someone who has had the same hobby or job for years, yet is really no better at it now than when they first started? Sure, he may really enjoy playing golf or piano, and she likes her job just enough not to leave . . . but they haven’t come close to what someone would call a “master”. Why is this?
Researchers say it takes about 10,000 hours of practice and about 10 years of dedication to be “outstanding” or “an expert” at something. Most adults would say they have put that amount of time into a few things, and at the best would consider themselves merely competent.
Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, reveals that it takes more than practice to be an expert. The best of the best practice in a special way. It’s deliberate practice that matters.
In deliberate practice, a stretch goal is set that aims at weaknesses, not the things in which the person already excels. Experts then focus 100% on meeting this goal, often practicing very intensely alone (a great predictor of how fast the goal is achieved), while making countless mistakes. These people also crave immediate and critical feedback (usually from great coaches) so they can quickly correct their failed attempts, repeating and refining until they succeed. As Duckworth notes, “experts do it all over again, and again, and again. Until they have finally mastered what they set up to do. Until what was a struggle before is now fluent and flawless. Until conscious incompetence becomes unconscious competence . . . then they start all over again with a new stretch goal. One by one, these subtle refinements add up to dazzling mastery.”
There is a reason most people don’t engage in deliberate practice: It’s not that fun. Experts say it requires much more effort and is less enjoyable than other less intense forms of practice, both mentally and physically. They don’t enjoy practice, but they really enjoy the subject of the practice and the outcome of the practice. That’s where grit comes in. Without the grit to engage in and stick with deliberate practice, people will continue to barely break 100 in golf, and will continue to be average at their jobs, not realizing their full God-given potential. The price of deliberate practice, and the grit required to put in the 10,000 intense hours, is simply too much. However, the alternative isn’t great. Duckworth adds, “top performers point out that the alternative to deliberate practice – mindlessly ‘going through the motions’ without improvement – can be its own form of suffering.”
Have you discovered a passion that could have a big reward if you became an expert? Whether it is a hobby, an aspect of your spiritual life, or something work-related, consider putting in the time and focus that defines deliberate practice to dramatically improve your impact in this area.