Deliberate Practice for Non-Virtuosos
Being a Renaissance person with a busy life doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be and stay a musical “hack.” The secret is using the method of virtuosos – deliberate practice – in ways that work for your life.
Recently, I read Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You. The basic premise is to ignore the advice, “Follow your passion,” and instead focus on constantly getting better through deliberate practice. As you acquire what he calls “career capital,” you’ll be able to leverage your way into fulfilling and autonomous work.
As I read through the book, I agreed with many of Newport’s claims, yet still felt uneasy about the premise of the book. I finally realized the problem: the book assumed that a good job was one that requires you to become a virtuoso in your field. For people like me, dedicating our lives to one main thing sounds horrifying. However, I’ve also realized that us Renaissance People can take a page from the virtuosos. We can and should do deliberate practice, we just need to make it time efficient and be able to balance multiple kinds of practice.
There are many books and articles addressing deliberate practice, but for simplicity’s sake, I’ll summarize my interpretation of the key features of the concept:
- Design = You need to be focused in your practice, which requires you to go in with a specific plan and goals
- Feedback = You need to get constructive input about your performance from others (as well as learning to self-assess your own performance)
- Support = You need to seek out assistance and encouragement from others and enlist their support in keeping you on-track toward your progress
- Repetition = You need to make practice a routine/habit and repeatedly work through ideas/concepts until you have completely mastered them
- Stretch = You need to constantly be pushing yourself to the limits of your ability so that you’re able to push through natural plateaus in learning
- Discomfort = You need to be OK with constantly being uncomfortable, feeling awkward, etc. (many sources refer to this as being “not fun” or “unenjoyable,” but I argue that after awhile you learn to enjoy the feeling of discomfort – having a sense of humor certainly helps…)
Do you engage in deliberate practice or do you need to work on making your practice more deliberate? What do you think is the greatest barrier to deliberate practice?