Peak by Anders Ericsson Ch. 1

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect”

– Vince Lombardi


Peak Anderson

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In this post you will learn:

  • How it is possible for a person to  practice an instrument, a language or a sport for years without really getting any better
  • The difference between ‘purposeful’ and ‘naive’ practice
  • The characteristics of purposeful practice.





  • We  were all born with a gift to become amazingly good at something, and we can take advantage of it if we use th right approach.
  • Even gifts that are traditionally considered to be ‘innate’, such as perfect pitch, can be developed by anyone using the right training and gets exposure at the right age.
  • The main gift of people who are very good at something is the fact that they have taken advantage of the adaptability of  the human  body more than the rest of us.

About this book

  • We can harness the incredible adaptability of the human brain and body and acquire incredible abilities. In order to do this, we must carry out the right sort of practice, over a long enough period. This is called deliberate practice.

The power of purposeful practice

The usual approach 

  • Once you have  reached an acceptable lvel of performance, say, after some time playing soccer,  you can spend years playing without really improving

GOLD NUGGET HERE: This implies that the classic ’20 years  of experience’ in résumés does not necessarily mean that that person has continued improving.

Purposeful Practice

  • Purposeful practice is different from naive practice. Examples of naive practice are playing tennis without a coach and without a plan, or just playing a song over and over without evaluating if we are improving or not
  • Purposeful practice, of the other hand, has ‘well-defined’, specific goals. For example, if you want to improve in tennis, you need a goal that sounds like ‘I am going to hit 50 cross court forehands and try to get at least 40 in)
  • Purposeful practice is ‘focused’. Paying your undivided attention to the task is necessary for improvement.
  • Purposeful practice involves feedback:  It is crucial for improvement to know if you are doing things right or wrong. If it’s the latter, you need to know what it is that you are doing it wrong. (NR: How about language, aren’t we innate grammarians? , capable of generating our own feedback?) The ability to monitor yourself whether you are doing things well or not. The author points our, in the case of a person he was studying, the most important feedback is the one that you can give yourself.  However, in order to maintain your motivation in the difficult task of getting good at something, you need meaningful, positive feedback.
  • Chunking is the key to improved mental performance, because it is the way to avoid the very real limitations of our short term memory. (NR: The author does not use the term chunking but I believe it is analogous)
  • Purposeful Practice involves getting out of your comfort zone. Otherwise you will not improve



QUESTIONS: Is perfect pitch an innate gift? 

Can you explain Ayako Sakakibara’s expetiment with perfect pitch? 

Why is a teacher with 20 years of experience better than one with 5 years of experience? 

How are purposeful practice and naive practice different? 

What are the characteristics of purposeful feedback?