Tag Archives: Ability

Effort and Expertise, Not Ability

The Economist reviews a new book—“Peak”—by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool:

Most notable is the “10,000 hour rule”: the idea that anyone can become an expert if they put in the time, a theme popularised by writers like Malcolm Gladwell.

At the heart of Mr Ericsson’s thesis is that there is no such thing as natural ability. Not for Mozart, nor for Garry Kasparov. Traits favourable to a task, such as perfect musical pitch, help at the outset but confer no advantage at higher levels. Rather, after a basic ability, it all comes down to effort.

Such mastery is possible because of what Mr Ericsson calls “deliberate practice”. This is focused training with an expert who can push an individual to a higher understanding of the craft. The key ingredient is mental representations: the ability to perform a task excellently without needing deliberate thought because similar situations have been so well practised that they seem second nature.