Monday, August 9, 2021

Book Report - PEAK - Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

                                         PEAK: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

                                          💫Written by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool 💫

Summary: Peak is written by Anders Ericsson, a research psychologist and professor, and Robert Pool, an accomplished science writer. The main point that this book tries to convey is that, in essence, "practice makes perfect". The authors theorize that there is no supernatural gift that certain/specific individuals are born with that allows them to succeed at a particular sport, instrument, or any other craft they participate in. They put forth the idea that with dedication, motivation, commitment, and patience, anything anyone puts their mind to can be achieved. The authors emphasize that each and every person on this earth is gifted in the sense that we all contain everything we need to succeed at whatever it is we choose. A common theme within the book is the concept of deliberate practice. If there is one thing you come away with after reading Peak, it is the importance of deliberate practice when it comes to achieving your goals. Deliberate practice is different from others forms of practice, such as naive practice, because it involves your full attention with the purpose of achieving your goal to excel at and improve your performance. Where other forms of practice may be without intention or thought, deliberate practice is intentional and systematic. The authors examine all different individuals who are the best at what they do, including renowned surgeons, child "prodigies", and professional athletes, and they conclude that the one thing these individuals all have in common, that got them to the top, is deliberate practice, nothing more and nothing less. They consider the criticisms of those who say "But what about natural talent?", and they provide real world examples of why natural born talent should not be credited for success. While height, weight, and IQ may contribute to success in a certain goal, they mean nothing without deliberate practice. This book does an excellent job of making you rethink your opinion on talent and success! 

                              The Beginner's Guide to Deliberate Practice | James Clear

                           (👆This image above is a quick example/visual explanation of deliberate practice 👆) 

* In this YouTube clip from The Ellen Show, a girl is able to play the piano incredibly well, especially for her young age. Is her talent due to sheer practice, dedication, and commitment, or is she a natural born child prodigy with an innate gift? What do you think? Authors Ericsson and Pool, as referenced in Chapter 8 of the book, would say that her skill is due to deliberate practice and dedication to a craft that she loves. 

Chapter 6 and Incentives: I would have to say that out of all of the chapters, Chapter 6: "Principles of Deliberate Practice in Everyday Life", would have to be the most intriguing to me. This chapter explores how someone, at any age, without any basic skill or knowledge of a sport, instrument, or computer (etc.), can turn themselves into an expert in a reasonable amount of time if they practice deliberately and have a set goal. The contents of this chapter reminded me of the PowerPoint slides from class on incentives and what motivates behavior. An example that is used within this chapter is about a man named Dan McLaughlin, who, at thirty years old, wanted to become a professional golfer even though he had no athletic experience or expertise in the subject whatsoever. Dan created a plan and made himself a goal to become part of the Professional Golfers' Association Tour in a span of around 6 or 7 years. He quit his job, planned to complete ten thousand hours of deliberate practice, got himself a decent coach, and had the passion and commitment needed to accomplish his goal. Dan also held the idea in his mind that he was going to succeed at his goal and was determined to achieve it, which the authors note, in this chapter, is important as well. The authors and Dan McLaughlin express how they feel as though it is unfair to assume that anybody who has a great talent or skill must have been born with an innate gift for it. The authors also discuss how just because someone may be initially good at a craft, while it takes others longer to pick it up, does not mean that they have a natural talent for it and everyone else should just give up. 

In this chapter, the book encourages the readers to go after whatever it is they want to do, even if they don't think they have the natural talent for it or have been told they are too old. The authors suggest in this chapter that with the right teacher, participation in deliberate practice, consistent challenging of your body/brain, motivation and incentive, and proper devotion, anything is possible. I found some of this information to be consistent with the PowerPoint slides on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, as well as the slides about incentives. For one, without an incentive or goal, people like Dan would not even begin to go after what they want. Without some kind of motivation, whether it be external or internal (or a mixture of both), why would Dan decide to want to be a professional golfer and commit himself to such a dedicated plan? Dan's incentive and motivation was to be able to compete in PGA tournaments and experience everything that comes with that. He wanted to experience this so badly that he was actually willing to quit his job, hire multiple coaches and a nutritionist, and dedicate ten thousand hours to deliberate golf practice. People such as Serena Williams, though not mentioned in the book, also fight their way to the top and are willing to overcome multiple different barriers in order to succeed. Serena Williams was a child living in Compton, with everything set against her, yet she had the intrinsic motivation of the sheer reward of doing what she loves for a living as well as the extrinsic motivation of the monetary awards, trophies, and fame that she would receive. She also knew she would be paving a way for young Black girls living in low socioeconomic areas to feel that they can achieve their goals and follow their dreams. Serena Williams clearly used deliberate practice to get to where she is now and I assume is able to experience a sense of flow, as we learned about in class. As for Dan McLaughlin, by the end of 2015, he had spent three years and six thousand hours of deliberate practice on golfing, and was able to take his handicap from almost 9 all the way down to a 3/4, which is exceptional for someone who has only been playing for such a short time (Ericsson & Pool, 2016). These individuals are just a few examples of proof that deliberate practice pays off. 

Conclusion: I decided to read this book because I personally have always believed that some people are born with natural talent or an innate gift to do certain things. I wanted to see if this book changed my opinion on that. In a way, it did. I became aware of all of the practice people like Mozart or Donald Thomas have done in order to achieve their success, and I realized the amount of dedication and commitment it takes to become talented at something. I thought about myself when reading the book, as well. My dad has played tennis since he was a child and still plays today, and watching him play when I was little made me want to take up the sport too. However, it wasn't until the summer after my eighth grade year that I began to practice and play tennis. I decided I wanted to be on the high school tennis team that next year. My dad bought me a tennis racket, set me up with a group of tennis players who were already on the junior varsity team, and got me private coaching lessons. I was out on the court almost every day for at least two hours that summer, and by the time tennis season started at the high school, I was able to play equally as well as the other girls trying out. Out of 34 girls, I was ranked 20 my freshman year and then 12 my sophomore year, and kept moving up from there. This book made me realize that the only real thing that got me to that point was deliberate practice. I did not fool around on the court or go to practice for fun, but instead I practiced with intense focus and determination to improve my performance. There were plenty of other players who played for fun and did not care to move up in ranking, and they were not intrinsically motivated to get better at the sport, and consequently they did not get any better, but I wanted to and worked extremely hard at it and so I did. I was intrinsically motivated by feeling great about myself and my ability to be a successful tennis player, and I was extrinsically motivated to achieve varsity status and be praised by family and friends. 

With that being said, I still feel that certain people have innate abilities and natural talents that allow them to be singers or musicians, but I now understand that most of what makes someone talented is their sheer dedication to practice. I would recommend this book to anyone because it is motivating and inspiring. It makes you feel like you can do anything you decide to put your mind to. It also taught me not to place my destiny in the hands of others who may doubt my ability to achieve a goal, which is a very important lesson that I think everyone should learn. I think this book could be especially useful in the time period we are currently living in now, because as issues like climate change become more and more prominent and women's rights as well as racial equality are still being fought for, we need new and upcoming individuals who are driven to make a difference in the world and use their passion for a worthy cause. This book may motivate them to commit themselves to practice and dedication and not let anyone deter them from changing the world. It can help anyone realize that anything is possible with hard work and deliberate practice. It is a worthwhile read, in my opinion! 

Ericsson, A., & Pool, R. (2016). Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (Reprint ed.). Mariner Books.

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