On Deliberate Practice

One of my life goals is to be an excellent programmer. I believe Peter Norvig when he says that it takes a lot of time (10 years?) and effort to get there!

In order to achieve a mastery over the craft (and computer programming is definitely a craft!) it is important to continuously grow and improve.

The million-dollar question is HOW? How do I go from here to there?

I am going to start with the beginner’s mind approach. What if I knew nothing about computer programming and had to start from scratch? What would I do? I have been reading about deliberate practice and I’m convinced that it is the only way to go from here to there.

Deliberate practice can be briefly summarized as below (excerpt from Cal Newport’s blog):

  1. It’s designed to improve performance. “The essence of deliberate practice is continually stretching an individual just beyond his or her current abilities. That may sound obvious, but most of us don’t do it in the activities we think of as practice.”
  2. It’s repeated a lot. “High repetition is the most important difference between deliberate practice of a task and performing the task for real, when it counts.”
  3. Feedback on results is continuously available. “You may think that your rehearsal of a job interview was flawless, but your opinion isn’t what counts.”
  4. It’s highly demanding mentally. “Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it ‘deliberate,’ as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.”
  5. It’s hard. “Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands.”
  6. It requires (good) goals. “The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but rather about the process of reaching the outcome.”

So, I must identify deliberate practice activities that I perform on a regular basis, get feedback and get on a path.

The really hard question is determining good goals. This is where a mentor can play a part.

My next post will be about what specific goals I have set up for myself in the days to come and how I intend to apply the principles of deliberate practice to get from here to there!