“Peak” Quotes

I recently read “Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, get the book here.

“In this new world it no longer makes sense to think of people as born with fixed reserves of potential; instead, potential is an expandable vessel, shaped by the various things we do throughout our lives. Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it.” (xx)

“Sometimes these books leave the impression that heartfelt desire and hard work alone will lead to improved performance – “just keep working at it, and you’ll get there” – and this is wrong. The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.” (xxi)

“We live in a world full of people with extraordinary abilities – abilities that from the vantage point of almost any other time in human history would have been deemed impossible.” (7)

“Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement.” (13)

“Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals.” (15)

“Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal.” (15)

“This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.” (18)

“Generally the solution is not “try harder” but rather “try differently.””(19)

“In all of my years of research, I have found it is surprisingly rare to get clear evidence in any field that a person has reached some immutable limit on performance. Instead, I’ve found that people more often just give up and stop trying to improve.” (21)

“Purposeful practice in a nutshell: Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation. This recipe is an excellent start for anyone who wishes to improve – but it is still just a start.” (22)

“To keep the changes happening, you have to keep upping the ante: run farther, run faster, run uphill. If you don’t keep pushing and pushing and pushing some more, the body will settle into homeostasis, albeit at a different level than before, and you will stop improving.” (40)

“Although the specific details vary from skill to skill, the overall pattern is consistent: Regular training leads to changes in the parts of the brain that are challenged by the training. The brain adapts to these challenges by rewiring itself in ways that increase its ability to carry out the functions required by the challenge.” (45)

“There is no such thing as developing a general skill. You don’t train your memory; you train your memory for strings of digits or for collections of words or for people’s faces. You don’t train to become an athlete; you train to become a gymnast or a sprinter oa marathoner or a swimmer or a basketball player. You don’t train to become a doctor; you train to become a diagnostician or a pathologist or a neurosurgeon. Of course, some people do become overall memory experts or athletes in a number of sports or doctors with a general set of skills, but they do so by training in a number of different areas.” (60)

“The main thing that sets experts apart from the rest of us is that their years of practice have changed the neural circuitry in their brains to produce highly specialized mental representations, which in turn make possible the incredible memory, pattern recognition, problem solving, and other sorts of advanced abilities needed to excel in their particular specialties.” (63)

“The superior organization of information is a theme that appears over and over again in the study of expert performers.” (72)

“The main purpose of deliberate practice is to develop effective mental representations.” (75)

“In every area, some approaches to training are more effective than others.” (85)

“If there is no agreement on what good performance is and no way to tell what changes would improve performance, then it is very difficult – often impossible – to develop effective training methods.” (85)

“You generally find that the best performers are those who have spent the most time in various types of purposeful practice.” (95)

“Nobody develops extraordinary abilities without putting in tremendous amounts of practice.” (96)

“First identify the expert performers, then figure out what they do that makes them so good, then come up with training techniques that allow you to do it, too.” (103)

“Once you’ve identified the expert performers in a field, the next step is to figure out specifically what they do that separates them from other, less accomplished people in the same field, and what training methods helped them get there.” (106)

“Once you have identified an expert, identify what this person does differently from others that could explain the superior performance.” (108)

“But an hour of playing in front of a crowd, where the focus is on delivering the best possible performance at the time, is not the same as an hour of focused, goal-driven practice that is designed to address certain weaknesses and make certain improvement.” (111)

“This distinction between deliberate practice aimed at a particular goal and generic practice is crucial because not every type of practice leads to improved ability.” (111)

“There is no point at which performance maxes out and additional practice does not lead to further improvement.” (113)

“If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way. Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the “right way” is.” (122)

“The distinction between knowledge and skills lies at the heart of the difference between traditional paths toward expertise and the deliberate-practice approach.” (131)

“Deliberate practice, by contrast, focuses solely on performance how to improve it.” (131)

“Professional schools focus on knowledge rather than skills because it is much easier to teach knowledge and then create tests for it.” (137)

“If your mind is wandering or you’re relaxed and just having fun, you probably won’t improve.” (151)

“For the amateurs it was a time to express themselves, to sing away their cares, and to feel the pure joy of singing. For the professionals, the lesson was a time to concentrate on such things as vocal technique and breath control in an effort to improve their singing. There was focus but no joy.” (151)

“Daniel Chambliss concluded that the key to excellence in swimming lay in maintaining close attention to every detail of performance, “each one done correctly, time and again, until excellence in every detail becomes a firmly ingrained habit.”” (153)

“It is better to train at 100 percent effort for less time than at 70 percent effort for a longer period.” (154)

“To effectively practice a skill without a teacher, it helps to keep in mind three Fs: Focus. Feedback. Fix it. Break the skill down into components that you can do repeatedly and analyze effectively, determine your weaknesses, and figure out ways to address them.” (159)

“With writing, he studied the work of experts and tried to reproduce it; when he failed to reproduce it well enough, he would take another look at it and figure out what he had missed so that he would do better the next time.” (160)

“When you first start learning something new, it is normal to see rapid – or at least steady – improvement, and when that improvement stops, it is natural to believe you’ve hit some sort of implacable limit. So you stop trying to move forward, and you settle down to life on that plateau. This is the major reason that people in every area stop improving.” (162)

“The best way to move beyond it is to challenge your brain or your body in a new way.” (163)

“Any reasonably complex skill will involve a variety of components, some of which you will be better at than others. Thus, when you reach a point at which you are having difficulty getting better, it will be just one or two of the components of that skill, not all of them, that are holding you back.” (164)

“With all of this in mind, I suggested to Josh that if he wanted to speed up the pace at which he could memorize the order of a deck of cards, he should try to do it in less time than it normally took and then look to see where his mistakes were coming from.” (164)

“I think that anyone who hopes to improve skill in a particular area should devote an hour or more each day to practice that can be done with full concentration.” (169)

“When you quit something that you had initially wanted to do, it’s because the reasons to stop eventually came to outweigh the reasons to continue. THus, to maintain your motivation you can either strengthen the reasons to keep going or weaken the reasons to quit. Successful motivation efforts generally include both.” (169)

“As long as you recognize this new identity as flowing from the many hours of practice that you devoted to developing your skill, further practice comes to feel more like an investment than an expense.” (172)

“In order to push yourself when you really don’t feel like it, you must believe that you can improve and – particularly for people shooting to become expert performers – that you can rank among the best. The power of such belief is so strong that it can even trump reality.” (172)

“If you stop believing that you can reach a goal, either because you’ve regressed or you’ve plateaued, don’t quit. Make an agreement with yourself that you will do what it takes to get back to where you were or to get beyond the plateau, and then you can quit. You probably won’t.” (173)

“One of the hallmarks of expert performers is that even once they become one of the best at what they do, they still constantly strive to improve their practice techniques and to get better.” (183)

“The creative, the restless, and the driven are not content with the status quo, and they look for ways to move forward, to do things that others have not.” (206)

“Progress is made by those who are working on the frontiers of what is known and what is possible to do, not by those who haven’t put in the effort needed to reach that frontier.” (206)

“People do not stop learning and improving because they have reached some innate limits on their performance; they stop learning and improving because, for whatever reason, they stopped practicing – or never started.” (225)

“In the long run it is the ones who practice more who prevail, not the ones who had some initial advantage in intelligence or some other talent.” (233)

“Since we know that practice is the single most important factor in determining a person’s ultimate achievement in a given domain, it makes sense that if genes do play a role, their role would play out through shaping how likely a person is to engage in deliberate practice or how effective that practice is likely to be.” (238)

“When preparing a lesson plan, determining what a student should be able to do is far more effective than determining what that student should know.” (251)

“The best among us in various areas do not occupy that perch because they were born with some innate talent but rather because they have developed their abilities through years of practice, taking advantage of the adaptability of the human body and brain.” (256)

Liked the quotes? Get the book here.

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