Peak

  • by Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool
  • Narrated by Sean Runnette
  • 10 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the world's reigning expert on expertise comes a powerful new approach to mastering almost any skill.
Have you ever wanted to learn a language or pick up an instrument, only to become too daunted by the task at hand? Expert performance guru Anders Ericsson has made a career of studying chess champions, violin virtuosos, star athletes, and memory mavens. Peak condenses three decades of original research to introduce an incredibly powerful approach to learning that is fundamentally different from the way people traditionally think about acquiring a skill.
Ericsson's findings have been lauded and debated but never properly explained. So the idea of expertise still intimidates us - we believe we need innate talent to excel or think excelling seems prohibitively difficult.
Peak belies both of these notions, proving that almost all of us have the seeds of excellence within us - it's just a question of nurturing them by reducing expertise to a discrete series of attainable practices. Peak offers invaluable, often counterintuitive advice on setting goals, getting feedback, identifying patterns, and motivating yourself. Whether you want to stand out at work or help your kid achieve academic goals, Ericsson's revolutionary methods will show you how to master nearly anything.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Takes long, deliberate practice to be an expert

They're not really secrets since the idea of dedicated practice to become an expert has been around for a while. The author makes an interesting point - when people practice/work on something, they reach a level of acceptable proficiency and then stops improving. People mistakenly think that if they do the same thing over and over for years, they have gotten as good as they're going to get. For example, a person types 40 words per minute and has done it for years. She figures that's the fastest she can type. She doesn't do deliberate practice to overcome the hard parts, like identify letter combinations that slows her down and practice typing words with those letter combinations over and over. It's tedious but that's what it takes to get past the barrier and move up to the next level.

Whether it's mental or physical, the human body adapts to the demands placed on it. Muscles are built and this becomes the new normal for the body. The task that was once hard now feels natural and comfortable to perform. It is amazing that through steady and methodical training, there are people who can memorize thousands of digits of pi and play blind chess (having the moves told to them) for over 40 games going on simultaneously.
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- A. Yoshida

Offers more wisdom than even intended

Ostensibly, Peak is about how the best become the best and how you can achieve new heights too. If this were all it was, it would be a great book.

But I gleaned more from it than that. At this book's heart is a distinction between real practice and merely repeating things. Real "deliberative" practice requires identifying your weaknesses and finding exercises specifically target them. Once you have it in focus, you have to push yourself beyond your comfort level, forcing your brain or body (or both) to adapt, which changes and improves them in the process.

It brings to mind trying to straighten a stiff metal wire with a blunt object: unless you can get it situated and hit it from just the right angle, you'll just push it around without making progress. Most of us feel like we can't improve much at a lot of what we do because we spend our whole life just pushing the wire around. Without knowing how to isolate our weaknesses and hammer them until they are better, we never become better.

I recently took up climbing. Within 8 months, I have progressed through four distinct levels of difficulty in climbing and can do things I hardly thought were possible a year ago. I did that, as he points out in the book, because climbing is perfectly setup for deliberative practice: you can repeat problems over and over (which means you're always working on weaknesses) and it's most fun to climb at the edge of your ability (so you're always pushing your comfort zone).

In that same period I did not make 4 levels of progress in processing emails efficiently, producing funding applications, coordinating my time, or any of the other many things I'm required to do at work. I used to assume I just had a genetic level of aptitude at these things. Now I know it is more that they are difficult to practice deliberatively.

Those aptitudes I have improved—such as writing—I improved because I do get feedback and I can focus more easily on my weaknesses. The book has made me realize why I improve at some things and stagnate at others.

The book was also deeply frustrating however. I used to think I couldn't do math because I was born that way. Now that I know I just wasn't practicing correctly, I wish I could go back and start a career in science.

If I would criticize the book for one thing, it would be fore underplaying the role of physical limitations. Three foot tall people can't learn to do slam dunks no matter how much they practice. There likely exist similar mental limitations, which he lends little credence.
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- Tristan "Urban planner. Environmentalist. Geek."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-10-2016
  • Publisher: Audible Studios