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Book title: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (2017)

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  • Great reviews of this book from URL

  • The following notes are mostly paraphrased from the above reviews .
  • The book was written by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool; Based on more than forty years of research about expert performance.

  • The main opening question answered by the book: “Why are some people so amazingly good at what they do?” sets the stage for the whole book. This book explains in detail the journey that expert performers go on to reach the mountaintop.

Chapter 1.

First it explains the value of purposeful practice in expanding your physical and mental capacity for generating greater achievements in the future. It emphasizes the importance of taking small steps on a regular basis and gathering feedback on what you are doing effectively and ineffectively.

Chapter 2.

Then the authors explain how to learn how to specifically harness your mental adaptability to develop new skills and move beyond the status quo. It also explains how your potential is not fixed, but rather is something that can be continually expanded.

Chapter 3.

The authors explain the importance of mental representations. And emphasizing the importance of actually seeing the level of performance that you are aspiring to reach. By visualizing the details of what needs to happen, you are able to see the pieces and patterns that are necessary for a great performance.


Chapter 4 explains the steps involved in deliberate practice, the best way to improve your performance in any type of activity. By progressing forward in a more intentional and effective way, e.g., logging performance, logging errors, analyzing logs, getting instant feedbacks from good coaches, 1-1 individualized tutoring, allowing errors in the OK plateau phase; ……

Chapter 5.

Chapter 5 showcases how deliberate practice can be used in actual job situations regardless of the type of work that you do. Then the authors explained how deliberate practice can be applied in everyday life situations whether you’re exercising, parenting, or enjoying a hobby.

Chapter 7.

Chapter 7 explains and analyzes the world-class experts and explains what is involved. It analyzes cases like the three chess master sisters from Hungarian. (1) initial interests get motivated in the childhood; (2) deliberated practices take time, hard focus and analytical reasoning and planning; (3) right mentors and coaches;

In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner attempted to answer this question by describing the three stages that anyone goes through when acquiring a new skill.

During the first phase, known as the “cognitive stage,” you’re intellectualizing the task and discovering new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently.

During the second “associative stage,” you’re concentrating less, making fewer major errors, and generally becoming more efficient. Finally you reach what Fitts called the “autonomous stage,” when you figure that you’ve gotten as good as you need to get at the task and you’re basically running on autopilot. During that autonomous stage, you lose conscious control over what you’re doing.

As a task becomes automated, the parts of the brain involved in conscious reasoning become less active and other parts of the brain take over. you could call it the “OK plateau,” the point at which you decide you’re OK with how good you are at something, turn on autopilot, and stop improving.

What separates experts from the rest of us is that they tend to engage in a very directed, highly focused routine, which Ericsson has labeled “deliberate practice.” Having studied the best of the best in many different fields, he has found that top achievers tend to follow the same general pattern of development. They develop strategies for consciously keeping out of the autonomous stage while they practice by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented, and getting constant and immediate feedback on their performance. In other words, they force themselves to stay in the “cognitive phase.”

When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. … Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.

The best way to get out of the autonomous stage and off the OK plateau, Ericsson has found, is to actually practice failing. The secret to improving at a skill is to retain some degree of conscious control over it while practicing — to force oneself to stay out of autopilot.

How is it that we continue to surpass ourselves? Part of Ericsson’s answer is that the barriers we collectively set are as much psychological as innate.

Chapter 8.

Then the authors explodes the myth of natural talent. It shows in detail that great performers always got there through extraordinary practice.

Chapter 9.

Finally the authors guide the reader to think about the future of a world that applies deliberate practice on a regular basis and its impact on education, medicine, health, and relationships. They wrote, “Perhaps a better way to see ourselves would be as Homo exercens, or ‘practicing man,’ the species that takes control of its life through practice and makes of itself what it will.”

  • Related books: 10,000-hour rule mentioned in the book “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell and the book “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.