|"The difference between greatness and mediocrity," said Nelson Boswell, "is often how an individual views a mistake."|
Evidence is evident across a wide range of fields. A study of 20-year-old violinists by Ericsson et al. found the most proficient group averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000. Call this The Ten Thousand Hour Rule. More deliberate practice equals better performance. A huge amount of practice equals great performance.
The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." Deliberate practice is explicitly intended to improve performance. It's reaching for objectives just beyond one's level of competence. Deliberate practice provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition. For example: Simply shooting pool for hours is not deliberate practice, which is why most pool players don't get much better. Playing the same combination into the side pocket 200 times with a goal of sinking the two-ball off the eight-ball 95% of the time is deliberate practice. Continually observing results and making the appropriate and necessary adjustments, and doing that for hours every day - that's deliberate practice.
And recording those results - assiduously and scrupulously - is imperative. If you fail to keep complete and accurate records, you are only cheating yourself and slowing any honest attempt to become as good as you can be.
Consistency is crucial. As professor K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University notes, "Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends." How much are you practicing every day? Not playing, practicing. Studying how to play, examining what to play when. Working....
Legendary violinist Vladimir Horowitz supposedly said, "If I don't practice for a day, I know it. If I don't practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don't practice for three days, the world knows it."
To paraphrase - just a little - Allen Iverson: "We're in here talkin' about practice. Not talkin' about the game. We're talkin' 'bout practice. We're not even talkin' about the actual game. We're talkin' 'bout practice. I know it's important. I do. I honestly do. Practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We're talkin' 'bout practice. Not a game. What are we talkin' about? Practice??? We're ain't talkin' about an actual game. When it matters. We're talkin' 'bout practice."
Speaking of basketball, if talent was all that was needed for success, Michael Jordan wouldn't have been cut from his high school basketball team. Working harder than anybody else in the game is what made him the greatest. And you can be like Mike, too, if you work just as hard.
For most of us, work is already hard enough. Any extra steps needed are already almost too steep to climb. Such is life. If greatness was easy, it wouldn't be rare.
Professor Ericsson notes, "Some international chess masters have IQs in the 90s." The more research that is conducted done, the more solid the deliberate-practice model becomes.
Something to keep in mind. Those who naturally excel at activities are far more likely to devote ten years of deliberate practice to them than those who are lousy.
Most of us never acquire the dedication necessary to achieve greatness, even in areas where we might have natural talent. Hard work - sustained hard work performed daily - is wearing. Individuals who can sustain a focused energy over a long, long period are those most likely to achieve greatness.
The key point is this: you are not limited by some magical gift. Greatness isn't reserved for a few mystical lucky others. Greatness can be yours.
True, poker can be difficult to practice. Poker requires making judgments and decisions with imperfect information in an uncertain environment, interacting with opponents who are attempting to deceive you.
When you play poker, play as if you are deliberately practicing. Play with a purpose. Instead of merely trying to make the right play, you must aim to figure out all the plays and make the best one. You aren't just playing the game, remember, you're explicitly trying to get better at it in the long run. When you play like this, research suggests you will process information better and you will retain it longer. As you play more and more this way, this mindset will automatically become part of your game.
Then there are the poker gods. Perhaps we can practice - work hard enough - so we don't suffer so much at their hands.... Wouldn't that be great??