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My notes from Peak

As usual, the notes are no substitute for the book. The strength of Peak is not just the ideas it contains, but how convincingly it communicates them.

There is a clear link between performance and hours of practise and there is always room for improvement, so practically anyone can improve at anything through deliberate practise. This involves practising with a specific goal for improvement in mind, concentrating on meeting that goal, receiving feedback and self monitoring. This is the most important factor in reaching an elite level of performance in the long run, outweighing innate talent and IQ, although in some activities physical traits can give performers an insurmountable advantage.

The main gift that talented people have is the same one that we all share – the adaptability of the human body and brain. The brain changes in response to intense training, so that practise does not just improve performance, it actually increases ability. Whilst there is little evidence that prodigies are a real phenomenon, the brain’s adaptability is more pronounced in younger people and can have a compound effect (the bent twig effect). However, heightening one type of brain function can negatively impact other areas because the brain is devoting more resources elsewhere.

Once a person stops purposefully practising and being pushed outside of their comfort zone, additional years of experience do not improve performance. In fact, performance of those with decades of experience can diminish because cognitive changes require upkeep.

Good mental representations (how we think during a task) are the biggest difference between novices and experts. Consider a child learning to ride a bike. They look at the front wheel, focusing on balance, rather than where they want to go, which ironically causes the bike to wobble.

Direct practise is both purposeful and informed, so it requires objective criteria for superior performance and a teacher capable of providing practise activities.

The key principles of direct practise:

  • Use existing effective training techniques
  • Train outside your comfort zone
  • Focus on doing, rather than knowing (learning objectives)
  • Create well defined, specific goals so that training is deliberate and focused
  • Ensure that there is detailed feedback and that behaviour is modified as a result
  • Emulate the mental representations of elite performers to develop a clear model of what peak performance feels like. This allows for self monitoring.

I don’t agree with the idea that deliberate practise is only possible in a field that already has the right training laid out for you. In the book, Steve Faloon and Ben Franklyn both had to find their own way. It strikes me that it would be far easier to become a world class performer in a field that is under-served by high quality training than one where it is ubiquitous.

You may need to change teachers as you improve.
The best form of practise is often solo, rather than actually playing the sport.
Moving past a plateau involves identifying the bottleneck and changing practise to create different challenges. Often pushing practise to our breaking point can expose bottlenecks.

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