Some people say that you just have to work harder to get better. It seems to make sense, and appeals to the virtue of ‘hard work’.
But the truth is that it’s not that simple, is it?
There are some people who work really hard – who spend hours practising or playing – but who don’t get better. Maybe you were one of them.
Sometimes we can do things a lot and not get better at all. In fact, sometimes we get worse!
When I was playing tennis as a child, I would hit the ball and play tournaments and show up to expensive coaching sessions. And at my best I consistently got mediocre results.
The trouble was that I didn’t get feedback. I was practising but I wasn’t doing it the way I needed to if I wanted to actually get better. Instead, I rehearsed the skills I had over and over until I could play ‘well enough’. But I didn’t get better than that.
Nobody told me what I needed to do and I didn’t figure it out for myself. Maybe I could have but I didn’t.
As you read this, you have been walking for a long time. Yet how much better at walking are you today from last year?
Deliberate practice goes beyond just doing the same things over and over again, and instead is focused on actually getting better. It’s about finding ways to push yourself – to make your best even better – and it’s not always easy.
Sometimes you might need to invent ways to challenge yourself.
Because that is what the best of the best will do.