Remember when you are younger, your mum or your teacher keep on telling you to practise as the more you practise you will become better at whatever it is you are doing? I did. But I also remembered that no matter how much I practised my football, I never can ever be on anybody's favourite list of players. When my mates go on choosing sides, there will be a few of us left behind and are put on 'reserves'. That's when I remembered thinking, this practise thing doesn't work all the time.
I read an article recently on the New York Times about a study conducted by a psychology professor at the Florida State University in America. Professor Anders Ericsson who is a leading proponent of a movement known as Expert Performance Movement argued that the best way to learn how to encode information meaningfully, was a process known as 'deliberate practice'. Deliberate practice is more than simply repeating a task — going to the driving range and hitting 1,000 golf balls until your back hurts to make you look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame don't count. What is required is the setting of specific goals (you have to decide what you want to get out of it), obtaining immediate feedback (get someone on hand to observe you) and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
How did the professor come to this conclusion? Apparently he studied top peformances in all manner of sports and occupations including golf, chess, surgery, investments etc. He gathered all the data on their performance statistics and biographical details and combined them with laboratory experiments. This study compiled into a book to be published next month entitled "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance" will make your mum and your teacher giddy in going round telling you "I told you so, practise makes perfect". Apparently, according to the professor - expert performers - are made and not born. Practise really makes perfect. However you can still argue about not wanting to play that violin which your mum insists because the professor's research also argues that you will want to work hard at something if that something is what you love. So practise will make you good at something you love.
If this theory is right, we should encourage our young Brunei ones to follow their interests very early on in life so that they can build up their expertise and their skills (we should get our MOE to follow up on this report). It works for the senior ones among us too. Given that expertise is not inherent but made, therefore most of us still have the chance to improve on what we love doing especially our interests as there is still time to 'practise' and become better at it. I really hope so, as my golf game really really need improving! Watch out, Tiger Woods, here I come.