What is Deliberate Practice?

In his seminal book “Outliers: The Story of Success” Malcolm Gladwell introduced much of the world to the so-called “10,000 hour” rule which was largely based on the research of K. Anders Ericsson.

The basic idea Gladwell pitched was that success requires a lot of practice.  In fact, Gladwell opined that in order to become world class (at anything) you need to put around 10,000 hours of practice into it.  He shared many examples including how the Beatles practiced for many, many hours before making it big.

The thing I immediately appreciated about this rule was that it stressed the importance of hard work.  In our world of fad diets, and the desire (need?) for instant gratification, many of us need to be reminded that, in the end, hard work pays off.

Unfortunately, as good as Gladwell’s intentions were… there is an extremely important aspect of this rule many failed to grasp.  Specifically, for this rule to have any validity there is a very specific TYPE of practice required.  Allow me to explain.

Two Approaches to Practicing

Let’s say there are two young soccer players hoping to master, as best they can, the skill of taking penalty kicks.  Let’s also say each player is willing to practice for 1 hour per day.  Here’s how things play out.

Player one shows up to the field with a bag full of 15 soccer balls.  He sets the first ball down and shoots it into the net.  Once the 15th ball has been shot he casually collects the balls (some are in the net, some are not).  He continues this process for the entire hour.

Player two also shows up to the field with a bag full of 15 soccer balls.  She then begins to execute her plan of shooting the first 5 balls to the left corner, the next 5 balls to the right corner, and the last 5 balls to the middle.  She mixes things up from time to time but she always has a plan.  In fact, sometimes her plan simply involves striking the ball with her laces in a very specific manner.

Player two has also asked a friend to come and help her.  This friend logs how many of the shots went where they were supposed to along with the details of any “misses” enabling the player to reflect back, and consult her coach, on why she may have missed.  Her friend also helps collect the balls after each round allowing the player to maximize her time on the pitch.

After a few months each player has put many hours of hard work into improving their penalty kicks.  In fact, time wise, they’re equal since both practiced for 1 hour per day.  But, as you might imagine, the second player has almost certainly realized more improvement as a result of the way she went about practicing.  Specifically, she practiced deliberately.

What is Deliberate Practice

James Clear, who has studied this topic extensively, defines deliberate practice as follows:

Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.

This is why player two, who had a plan each and every time she hit the pitch, practiced deliberately versus player one who simply hit the field and kicked some soccer balls for an hour.

How to Practice Deliberately

With all of this said, deliberate practice isn’t easy.  It requires at least three things.

First, deliberate practice requires patience.  Many of us long to be able to snatch 225 pounds but we’re not willing to practice the not-so-exciting “down and up” aspect of the Burgener Warm-up using a PVC pipe on a daily basis.

Second, deliberate practice requires planning.  If you hope to master a musical instrument and you have no plan for how to go about it… you’re obviously going to struggle.  And while player one has gotten a bad rap in this article I imagine many of us are guilty of thinking that “showing up” and “putting the work in” is enough.  Don’t get me wrong, showing up is important… but it’s not sufficient if you hope to practice deliberately.  You must have a well thought out plan.

And, last, but certainly not least… deliberate practice requires the help of a coach or, at a minimum, some way to get unbiased feedback even if it means video taping yourself so you can ask someone with more experience to verify you’re on track.  Unfortunately, this is the biggest downside for those of us who attempt to learn new skills on our own.

So, yes, hard work is important.  Practice is important.  But if we want to really move the needle and unlock our true, God given, talents we need to learn how to practice deliberately.

Obviously, there are other characteristics that also come into play when it comes to excellence.  Those with above average height will have a better shot at excelling at basketball.  And Major League Baseball All Stars have been shown to have extremely good eye sight.  But, it’s also a very safe bet that these same basketball and baseball players also practiced, and continue to practice, in very deliberate ways.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

By Ron Pereira

Excuses.  We all have them.  We all use them.  Heck, some of us even use deflecting statements like, “I don’t have a good excuse… I just suck…” as an excuse!

We make excuses for why we don’t work out consistently.  We make excuses for why we don’t eat clean.  We make excuses for why we don’t spend enough time in prayer.  We make excuses for… well, I think you get the point.

What are Excuses?

Excuse-making is often categorized by Psychologists as self-handicapping.  In other words, excuses hurt our own performance and negatively impact how motivated we are to improve.  Excuses often stem from an unconscious desire to protect our ego.

Of course there are legitimate excuses (i.e. being late to the meeting because you were in a car accident).  I’m not talking about these.  I’m talking about the excuses we use to deflect our own mistakes, inaction, and lack of discipline.

What’s the Solution?

Now, I don’t want to pretend to have all the answers as it relates to excuse making since I’m far from infallible myself.  But, I firmly believe one of the remedies to excuse making lies in our ability to form strong, virtuous, habits.

In other words, if you struggle to eat clean… form clean eating habits.  If you struggle finding time to read the Bible and pray… form Bible reading and prayer habits.  And if you struggle to exercise on a regular basis… form fitness related habits.

Obviously, this is easier said than done, so if you need some help figuring out how new habits can be formed and bad habits can be modified… we have you covered with these articles from our growing archives.

  1. What are Habits and Why Should We Care?
  2. How to Form New and Virtuous Habits
  3. 4 Steps to Modifying Bad Habits

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Catholic Brotherhood

Mike and I have written many articles related to our Exodus 90 journey.  I can, without question, state that our original 90 day Exodus was the most transformative time of my life.  It changed me.

After those original 90 days our group continued to meet on a weekly basis to follow-up with each other and to continue to sharpen our spiritual saws.  One of our brothers even moved to a different state which could have easily impacted our group.  It didn’t.  We simply conference call him in.

We continued with these weekly meeting for many months.  Then, recently, something interesting happened.  Sports!  Kids!  Several of us have kids that play sports.  In my case I recently had 5 kids playing different sports at the same time.  Needless to say this took a lot of time to orchestrate and, man, it put a serious beatdown on our weekly Exodus meetings.

In fact, we missed meeting for many weeks in a row.  We tried to connect, as best we could, over text and, sometimes in person.  But it wasn’t the same.

The good news is we finally met as a group this past weekend and it was great.  We were able to reconnect and catch each other up on what’s been going well and, most importantly, what we’ve been struggling with.

And while it’s obviously not appropriate to share what any of us have been struggling with one thing was obvious… none of us were at our very best.  We all voiced frustration with some aspects of our physical and spiritual lives.

Now, I am no spiritual guru… but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our struggles were strongly correlated to our lack of consistent meetings.  It’s so easy for mediocrity to sneak into your life when you lack the support, and accountability, from other like minded brothers.

Moving forward our Exodus group definitely plans to get back to our weekly meetings… and we’re planning to practice 100% of the Exodus 90 disciplines during the 22 days of Advent.

With all of this said, the point of this article isn’t to update you on our group’s situation.  Instead, it’s to encourage you to strengthen the brotherhood you have with others.  If you’ve done Exodus 90 with a group of men and don’t stay in touch with them I would strongly encourage you to re-engage with your group.

And, if you don’t have a group of holy men to associate with on a regular basis I cannot encourage you enough to find 2 to 3 other men and start Exodus 90 this week.  In fact, start today.  Don’t wait.  Don’t make excuses.  Don’t be weak.  Instead, be strong.  Be courageous.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

WOD 110317

Tabata (:20 on, :10 off for 8 rounds)

  • Butterfly Sit-ups
  • Please ensure hip crease breaks parallel when sitting up and that your feet don’t leave ground.

Tabata (:20 on, :10 off for 8 rounds)

  • Goblet Squats.  Please be sure to go lower than parallel when squatting.  Any squat to parallel, or above parallel, should not be counted as an official rep.
  • Post load (weight) used when scoring in comments section

Tabata (:20 on, :10 off for 8 rounds)

  • Sandbag Cleans
  • Post sandbag load (weight) when scoring.

WOD 110217

– Dumbbell Thrusters
– Hand Release Push-ups

Post DB load (weight) and time in comments.

Excuses. You will always find plenty if you want to avoid your obligations. What a profusion of well-thought-out nonsense!

Don’t stop to consider it. Dismiss it and do your duty.

-St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 1:21

WOD 110117

Active Recovery Day

Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn’t fully understand and asks about what she doesn’t know. Then she gives herself completely to doing the divine will. – St. Josemaria Escriva

WOD 103117

– 3 Pull-Ups
– 9 Kettlebell Swings
– 18 Single-Unders
– 3 Minutes Rest

This workout is 3 rounds.  Each round is a 3 minute AMRAP as described above.  At the end of each round please rest for 3 minutes before starting the next round.

Please note KB loading (weight) in comments ( i.e. feel free to go heavier than 25#).  Count and record the total REPS per round.  So you should record 3 different rounds in the comments section.

To defend his purity, Saint Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, Saint Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush, and Saint Bernard plunged into an icy pond… You – what have you done? – St. Josemaria Escriva