Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Art of Practice

I am currently reading a book on running by Danny Dreyer called ChiRunning.  I have only just started this book, but have already come away with at least one great point that applies across the board of skill acquisition:

"Making an activity a practice is a process of self-mastery... One reason to practice a skill is to make that skill easier until it doesn't take effort."

This sums up why we practice better than anything I've ever read.  I truthfully could end this post here and I feel it would be sufficient, however I'll expound.

Whenever we begin to learn a skill, be it a new language, instrument or physical activity it is a difficult task.  There are many new things going on that we have to process and think about getting right that sometimes the  ultimate goal seems incomprehensible.  However, as we continue to work on the skill (a.k.a. practice) the smaller building blocks that we stumbled over before become simpler and simpler to the point that we eventually don't think about them at all.  Naturally, there are always more blocks to come on top of the ones we already laid out, however as the process continues in the same way with new, challenging concepts gradually becoming easier and eventually becoming second nature.  This is the beauty of skill acquisition!

The end result of this process is something we all know when we see it, a sense of ease that a master has when performing his/her skill.  This is what we should all strive for no matter what skill we are learning.  Below I will post a couple clips of the end result in various skill areas.

The most obvious master in the modern age of operatic singing, Luciano Pavarotti.  For that matter, also a master conductor, Herbert von Karajan.

One of the best running backs of all time, Barry Sanders.

One of the best short distance runners around, Usain Bolt.

One example of many masters of language, Richard Simcott.

A brief update on my own journey:  French is progressing along steadily.  I plan to finish up my French studies during the first week of the new year and then I will move on to German!  Vocally things are really starting to solidify for me.  I have recently found my high A and am gaining a lot of stability with it, the next step here is to hone in on the B-flat!

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