Monday, May 16, 2016

Deliberate Practice or Natural Talent?

I've been told on many occasions that some of us just have natural talent that others don't. I just don't buy that argument. 

I'm reading Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Ericsson is the originator of the10,000 hours idea. Unfortunately he wasn't too happy with the way his work was distilled down to a sound bite. You may remember I have some issues around the sound bites of knitting myself. Here, here and here.  

He feels that the concept of deliberate practice wasn't given enough attention. When most of us practice something, we often just do repetitions of the things we already do reasonably well. Deliberate practice is different. It's about working on the things you don't already do well. It's challenging and can be mentally exhausting. If you have ever spent a weekend at a knitting retreat you have probably realized how much effort goes into developing new skills and improving existing ones. At the end of every event I've been at, attendees speak about the mental overload they feel. 

Taking the classes at a retreat is part of deliberate practice. Teachers help you set goals for learning by presenting you with a series of steps which can be broken down into  discrete skills  for you to practice. Deliberate practice is a big topic and I won't try to reduce it into a paragraph here. If you are interested in improving in any area of your life, you'd find the book an interesting read.

I think that part of the reason I've never lost interest in knitting is that I continue to have areas where I'd like to improve my skills and I see various techniques I'd like to try. Deliberate practice is just part of my knitting routine. On the other hand I always have a simple carry around project for relaxing with. 



  1. I've not read the book but I have heard of the 10K hours idea. And, funnily enough, something that bothered me about the concept of 10K hours was about all the things you work to improve upon within that time frame. It makes no sense to spend 10K hours working on something you can already do well. Then it's just remembering how to do it and general practice.

    In knitting, I've avoided colorwork because I find it difficult to hold yarn in both hands or two strands in one and switch. Buuuuuut, I just did a two-color project and I figured out a way to make it work. It's not perfect but I found something that works for me. I might just have to do another one....and I'll be off on another 10K hours, learning something new, which is the point of the 10K hours.

    1. It turns out deliberate practice is all about pushing your skills to a higher level in very small steps. It should be challenging but not overwhelming. Trying another project would be a good next step. It might be helpful if you take some time to analyze what you want to do better on the next project and maybe Check out YouTube for some techniques videos for ideas.