Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things- Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
I learned about this book from the recommended reading section of Angela Duckworth’s Grit. Aren’t I happy I got it! Peak covers something I have been drumming into my head lately.
Everyone can learn any skill. Everyone can be great at what they do. All they have to do is practice, the right way. The book largely focuses on deliberate practice, one of Duckworth’s recommendations.
For the large part, this book talks about deliberate practice. It shows that through practice- the right form of practice- we can learn any skill. The authors start by describing how they conducted an experiment whereby an individual, named Steve could memorize a large number of digits.
They demonstrate how this number increased the more Steve practiced. Peak calls this purposeful practice.
They show that purpose practice is characterized by; well defined and specific goals, focus, getting feedback to inform practice and getting out of one’s comfort zone.
Deliberate practice is applied in areas that are already well developed, fields where people with more experience perform better than those without. For example, deliberate practice can be applied in tennis, music, chess and the like.
“Getting outside your comfort zone but doing it in a focused way, with clear goals, and a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation”.
The 10,000 hours rule
Deliberately practicing on a skill for long is what achieves expertise, similar to what Malcolm Gladwell terms as the 10,000 hours rule in his book Outliers.
The more you work on a skill, the better you become at it. Peak quotes that authors and poets usually produce their best work after years of writing usually more than a decade.
This is similar to what I had discussed in Originals, which Adam Grant says non-conformists produce their best work by producing more. The more they produce, the better they get and the more chance they stand to make a masterpiece out of this work.
Harness adaptability and resilience
Peak shows how one can harness adaptability and become resilient in an area so as to increase their potential. The more you train your mind to learn something, the more it adapts and expands to handle more information.
The more you learn, the more you increase your capacity to learn more. This means that learning a skill only opens up your mind to become better at the skill and even more space to add to more skills.
The authors go about how we learn new skills through mental representation. The first time you learn something new since you have never encountered it before your mental representation of it is poor.
For example, if someone mentions a dog, and you have never seen a dog before, you will struggle to think of its appearance. If you are told it’s a fur animal with four legs, and maybe you have seen a cat before you will think of something looking like a cat.
However, the more you interact with dogs, the more the mental representation becomes clear. Interacting with dogs will get you to a point where you can draw a dog from memory since its mental representation is clear.
The authors of Peak use such an example to show that the more you interact with something, the clearer it becomes and therefore the better you become at it. Deliberate practice in all forms of skills involves forming mental representations that get better the more you interact with the skill your learning.
Talent is not enough
Another lesson from this Peak is similar to what I had described in my summary for Grit, the power of passion and perseverance. Ericsson and Pool discuss how talent is not sufficient for success, and effort counts much.
As Angela Duckworth puts it, effort counts twice. Even when one is born with a certain talent, the only effort can take them to the top.
Making chess masters
One of my favorite excerpts of this book is about a Hungarian psychologist Laszlo Polgar who together with his wife, decided all their children will be chess masters. From birth, they started training the children in chess, from playing with chess boards as toys to becoming global chess masters.
All their three daughters ended up becoming chess masters and grandmasters. Does this mean that they were born with a chess gene? No. it shows that any skill can be learned when done the right way.
I recommend Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things
Want to learn anything? I recommend this book. Also, if you are a parent, teacher, coach or responsible for any form of teaching, you might want to read Peak. You will learn that all of us can achieve great things, and you will learn how to go about it through deliberate practice.