Trust Your Practice

There will be days when your practice seems futile, when all your work feels like cutting diamonds with a blunt instrument.  You write down a plan, take your measurements, practice the cuts, and then your first cleaving strike shatters the stone into a million worthless flakes.

Failure is part of the practice.  Failure is the feedback that makes your practice better.

It is perseverance that changes your blunt instrument into a razor’s edge.  It is perseverance that changes your frustration into the patience necessary for the tree that is you to blossom and bear fruit.

The hardest part of practice is trusting in its efficacy, even as your progress flattens out, as it inevitably will.

Look at figure 38.1 (actually the first figure in the paper) in this link to Ericsson’s paper, “The Influence of Experience and Deliberate Practice on the Development of Superior Expert Performance”.  Notice the curve labeled “Expert Performance.”  That curve appears logarithmic to me.

Suppose the trajectory of expertise is logarithmic.  If the 10,000 hour rule is true (it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert), and we take the base 10 logarithm of 10,000, then we get log10(10,000)=4 to be the benchmark or threshold of expertise.

Now notice that log10(10)=1, log10(100)=2, log10(1000)=3, and log10(10,000)=4.  In other words, just 10 hours of deliberate practice yields 25% of the skill of an expert, 100 hours yield 50% of the skill, and 1000 hours 75% of the skill.

It takes another 9,000 hours of deliberate practice to acquire the last 25% of skill required to become an expert.  Can it be that it takes nine times the practice to be an expert that it does to be merely competent?  Perhaps that’s why so few of us are experts.

Progress beyond 1,000 hours comes extremely slowly.  It takes more than determination to be an expert.  It takes faith and hope; the faith that your practice is making you better, even when is no visible sign that it is, and the hope of finally mastering that which brings you joy.

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