Importance and limitations of deliberate practice

Gaurav Chhabra
Jan 21, 2017 · 2 min read

The following post is inspired by a post from Cal Newport + some of the material is sourced from a research study published in 2014 (Link:

“Deliberate Practice” (focuses on how most people master complex skills) was developed by Anders Ericsson (Swedish psychologist and professor of psychology at University of Florida). Deliberate practice espouses that to master a complicated skill it is not enough to do a lot of something; it should not only stretch individual’s abilities but also creates a loop of continuous feedback to improve given craft.

For people who are looking to master a skill which is not part of their regular profession makes it all the more difficult to master. There are hacks available and I am listing down few which one can focus on:

  1. Create new skill development as a part time but committed activity for yourself. This should be adopted with a carrot and a stick policy, where under performance is penalised
  2. Continuous feedback from a an expert on the matter is necessary to ensure the vector and the momentum is maintained
  3. Embrace the difficulties that will come during this phase of learning. Eliminate all distractions during the learning phase. There is no reward without the sweat

Although, there are reasons + intuitive logic suggests that deliberate practice helps professionals in improving their craft but there are limits beyond which one can not go with practice alone. Deliberate Practice is essential but not sufficient.

Research conducted by Fernand Gobet and Morgan H. Ereku mines various sports and crafts and their peak performers. Performers who decimated competition at an absolute level. The question that they tried to answer was “Whether Deliberate Practice is sufficient”? and the clear answer was “No”. We can see this happening around us (more common in sports ), when there is one true champion out there despite other players are focusing on deliberate practice, getting best of facilities yet unable to make a dent. Research has shown that there is weak correlation between number of years of practice and their performance.

This leads to conclusion that deliberate practice is not an end in itself. There are other variables that should explain Peak performance (raw and pure talent is one of them).

With benefit of hindsight, we know what variables are not sufficient for peak performance, some of them are mentioned below

  1. Quantity of practice much lesser than quality of practice . This includes access to best in class coaches and best practices in the trade. Identifying the boundaries and leveraging everything possible to push the frontier
  2. It is not only young age sportsmen or other professionals who show peak as commonly believed in their mid twenties
  3. High intensity practice is not sufficient. The endeavor requires certain spots of mental reset


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