book cover
“If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way. Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the ‘right way’ is.”

Peak Book Review

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool, 2016


This is a book promoting a particular type of practice. Purposeful practice is distinct from naïve practice which is just about doing more of the same. This book claims that Malcolm Gladwell ‘misrepresented’ the 10,000 hours rule. Purposeful or ‘deliberate’ practice has well-defined, specific goals, is focused, involves feedback and requires you to emulate experts and get out of your comfort zone.

So What? 

“The bottom line is that no-one has ever manged to figure out how to identify people with innate talent.”

Believing in giftedness and innate talent disables your ability to improve. Having perfect pitch, like Mozart, is not the gift: having the ability to develop perfect pitch is the gift. As far as the authors are concerned, we all have that gift. The capacity of our brain to adapt and change means that we can acquire new skills through conscious, deliberate training. So:

  • In order to improve, practice the right way
  • Do so, but do it a lot
  • Keep at it – use it or lose it

“Much of the age-related deterioration in various skills happens because people decrease or stop their training; older people who continue to train regularly see their performance decrease much less.”

Now What?

Don’t do the same thing over and over and expect results. Focus. Don’t try to improve every aspect of your performance. The evidence shows that simply being in a profession doesn’t guarantee improvement. Dentists don’t get better, in fact, without further training they gradually get worse.

  • Try, fail, get feedback, try again and repeat to build mental representations
  • Competition helps
  • Focused practice will in time change the structure of your brain
  • Expert performance will go through stages
  • Top performers have different mental representations from the amateurs so constantly adjust your practice based on feedback
  • Disciplines, activities and professions which have been around a long time have recognisable performance traits which can be identified and replicated

Once you’ve finished this book and for a really great insight into peak performance there’s the ThreeWhats High Performers and ThreeWhats Mindset Playbooks.