When it comes to human development, we know that not all time is considered equal. It couldn’t be. If it were, when it came to learning, things like effort and your level of focus would be rendered meaningless. By this logic, a minute of playing the piano while day dreaming about windsurfing would be just as effective as meticulously tuning in to piano practice. Nonetheless, we use overzealous, general qualifiers like time to claim authority and evaluate expertise in others.
Yet, reality shows conflicting results. Countless lifelong surfers, for example, will get into Venice’s breakwater this week, who, despite there experience, cannot hold a candle to the expertise of surfers like my friend, Lakey Peterson, who at twenty-two has less time in the water than the breakwater OGs. Is the only difference in her rank of third worldwide in surfing her youth? I don’t think so. I think the difference lays in the simple fact that being in the water for an hour is a deeper experience for her, with a faster learning curve, than most anyone else’s hour in the water.
Sure, at some point, there are some insights and experiences available to an auto mechanic who has been under a hood for twenty-five years that simply aren’t available to a first year mechanic, but this is the extent of value of absolute time. Beyond that, the details of how we spend our time really begins to matter. At some point, all the years in the world can’t compete with a skillful mechanic who’s progressing with greater intensity than the complacent veteran.
In the fitness world, for example, there are tons of “trainers” that can’t wait to announce that they’ve been training people for twenty years, while there are many second year coaches that are lightyears ahead of them in capability and effectiveness. Why? Because, when it comes to development, time isn’t absolute. This means twenty years of counting reps and making small talk with clients is not greater than two years of deep involvement in movement, skill development, and the intricacies of communicating progression to athletes. In this development example, two is greater than twenty. Of course, the ideal scenario is lots of experience and meaningful practice.
Anecdotally, I know I can point to countless examples of individuals with extensive time spent with their craft, while have very little to show for it developmentally. Coincidentally, I observe the individuals most eager to tell you about their tenure are most propped up by it.
Objectively, there’s actually science to what I’m saying, too. In academia (and in life), one minute of “deliberate practice” is greater than one minute of, well… practice. This very concept explains why some do better in school than others, why I still am an awful guitar player, and why some students get fit fast and others slow. “Deliberate practice” places the subject closer to his/her craft, and in position to get more useful information to make more useful changes to their craft and do so faster than those who are simply guilty of “practicing”.
What are the requirements of deliberate practice? You’ll need strict adherence to the following conditions:
- Motivation and effort to improve upon a specific goal
- The practice must take into consideration current ability and stretch it
- Immediate, informative performance feedback
- Mindful repetition
(Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993)
If you want to improve at anything, deliberate practice is the route with the highest utility. This means clear goals to stretch your current capacity and, most importantly, the awareness to get information and makes adjustments fast. Once you’ve closed the loop on how you take in feedback, being “ten years in” takes on a whole new meaning.
Then, complete 3 rounds for reps of:
:30 Max Log Viper Presses (95/65)
:30 Max Burpees
-Rest 1 min-