there once was a soccer coach who had two athletes, twin sisters, in fact who were vying for the same starting position.
The sisters Stacy and Tracy had similar talent, but in the summer months leading up to tryouts.
That changed Stacy trained for several hours every morning, focusing mostly on her weaknesses and keeping close track of her progress.
Tracy trained a lot too in the summer and she started by working on her weaknesses but found that to be hard, so she shifted to things that she could already do well much easier, much more enjoyable.
Stacey worked constantly on the little details of her training regimen.
Often she went to a soccer wall and passed to herself over and over again, literally hundreds of passes at a time as she did.
She tried to concentrate on what she was doing, thinking only about getting every little thing exactly right.
Tracy did that once or twice but gave up because it was boring, it was much more fun to take shots at the goal or to find a pickup game at the park.
So that’s what she did.
The game is the best teacher anyway, she told her sister but Stacy wasn’t buying it sometimes she played in those games.
But most of the time she worked alone, even video recording herself to study her technique.
She sent some of those videos to her coach as well to get his feedback, which she eagerly incorporated into her next training session.
Tracy likes feedback too.
But she preferred the perspective of her friends who all thought she was a super player after all, she scored the most goals in the pickup games.
Stacey went on Youtube almost every day to study the techniques of great players.
Tracy went on youtube to watch funny cat videos when it came time to try out.
The choice was obvious.
Stacey’s skills had blossomed over the summer.
Tracy was still about the same.
A good player, but not a starter in almost every way Stacy was now the better player.
All because of her training method and it’s a method that’s been proven to work for all sorts of skills.
It’s what makes musicians first chair and eventually professionals.
It’s what makes students valedictorians.
It’s what makes an eighth grader a national spelling bee champ.
It’s what makes chess players grandmasters.
It’s what creates the very best pilots and surgeons and teachers and actors and ballet dancers and soldiers and preachers and probably whatever you want to be next.
You see this parable of the twin sisters is not just about sports, it’s about accelerating your growth in almost any endeavor.
It’s about becoming an expert.
It’s about reaching your potential and it’s based on decades of solid research into what’s now called deliberate practice.
So in case you missed it in the story, here’s a recap of how you can achieve peak performance.
These are practical road tested steps to excellence that can work for almost any individual or team first work mostly on your weaknesses rather than on your strengths with specific goals in mind.
Maybe modest goals at first, but increasing in challenge.
Yeah, it’s much harder and a whole lot less fun than practicing what you already do well.
But get past that if you want to improve dramatically, this is the way also focus on the little things.
Break down the necessary skills into the smallest possible pieces and work on those two.
You consistently get them right.
It’s surprisingly easy to break down endeavors like golf or music or chess or dancing or cooking or math or driving a car or so many others, drill the little things to proficiency and then integrate them into the bigger task.
Notice that repetition is fundamental here too.
I’ll say that again, repetition is fundamental.
It can be drudgery no doubt, but the only way to mastery is to practice a couple times a day, Your free throws or an intricate guitar riff or those foreign language verb conjugation and as you do, concentration is also fundamental intense concentration in a world full of distractions.
The way to build skills is to think exclusively about what you’re doing as you practice.
As some have said, you need to practice with your head, not just your hands.
Many top performers achieved this concentration by training in solitude rather than alongside others.
And better outcomes tend to follow spelling bee champs for example, gained far more from solitary study than from being quizzed by someone.
Chess players gain more from solitary review of previous chess matches than from playing an opponent and when it comes to musical development, The time spent practicing alone is also the best predictor of who becomes world class.
Again we see that less enjoyable and more effortful activities are the best type.
If you’re serious about getting to the next level, regular feedback on your performance from an expert is also an essential part of the process, whether it’s a coach or a teacher or a tutor or some other specialist for best results.
The feedback should be candid, not sugarcoated and it should culminate in your deep reflection and eager correction.
One common habit of the best is to video record their games or performances or speaking engagements or whatever and then engage in brutally honest postmortems to root out and fix their weak spots.
One further finding from the research is that many top performers make a habit of studying deeply the best in their field.
The writing of Pulitzer prize winners or the acting of an Oscar nominee or the routines of a gold medal gymnast or the delivery and prep methods of a renowned pastor.
This sort of benchmarking pays inordinate dividends, but underlying all of these training methods are a few non-negotiable conditions of success; without these, you’ll be right back to where you started. For example, study after study indicates that there’s no substitute for time invested in practice.
Top performers invest a whole lot more time in practice than do good or average performers. humility to learn is also a condition of success without it.
We simply don’t accept the need to change and we don’t accept the expert feedback.
And then there’s something that performance researchers called grit, essentially passion and perseverance.
And the unwavering drive to excel with all three, you have a stable foundation for excellence, take any one of them away and the training program collapses.
Think about it.
It makes perfect sense.
So there you have it, deliberate practice is a way that so many people achieve extraordinary performance.
If you’ve had enough of being merely good, why not try it out for yourself?