Archive for April, 2010
I love the word eradication. I don’t know why.
As a part of an overall approach to personal growth, it’s important to know when your mind – which is far more complex than many of us give it credit – is working on your behalf and when it isn’t. Or, to put it more specifically, when it thinks it’s working on your behalf… when in reality it’s doing the equivalent of tying your hands behind your back so you can’t hurt yourself… but can’t eat or drink either!
In so many ways, our minds have adapted almost too well over millennia. In an effort to protect us in the short-term, we can frequently be hurting ourselves over the long haul.
The self-serving bias is like that. It’s the tendency to see ourselves as responsible for our successes, but to see others – or the circumstances – as responsible for our failures.
This is so clearly a coping strategy – we do this to protect our self-image, improve our confidence, and keep ourselves from dwelling on the negative. We also do it to (at least seemingly) protect the image of ourselves in the eyes of others by playing up the good stuff and deferring blame for the bad stuff.
But is it healthy? Is that really who we strive to be? Someone who takes the credit and assigns blame?
I doubt it. Most of us would probably say that this doesn’t describe us at all. That we’re great about giving credit where it’s due and taking blame when things don’t go well. And of course, most of us would be kidding ourselves (there’s that damn bias again). Because who you think you are and who you actually are are rarely the same. That’s one of the core tenets of psychology.
Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. – Vince Lombardi
It’s admittedly hypocritical of me to use the word ‘perfect’ in the title of this post when I’ve written in the past about perfection being overrated. But the word perfect does actually have a place in personal growth so long as you don’t take it too literally.
True perfection isn’t really the point though. The big idea is that practicing your craft has to be done with a level of respect for how you’ll perform in reality at all times. No ifs, ands, or buts.
The only way to achieve your maximum performance potential is to train your body and mind to do so over and over… and over.
Let’s assume for a moment that talent is overrated (just like perfection). Sure, there are people who are naturally better at certain things than others – they have talent, that’s indisputable – but no one can achieve great heights without lots and lots of practice. As Malcolm Gladwell said in Outliers, you need 10,000 hours of practice to be great. Or, really, to even have a chance at being great.
Peter Norvig recognized this pattern as well in “Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years”:
Researchers (Bloom (1985), Bryan & Harter (1899), Hayes (1989), Simmon & Chase (1973)) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, telegraph operation, painting, piano playing, swimming, tennis, and research in neuropsychology and topology. The key is deliberative practice: not just doing it again and again, but challenging yourself with a task that is just beyond your current ability, trying it, analyzing your performance while and after doing it, and correcting any mistakes. Then repeat. And repeat again.