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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.
49 of 51 people found this review helpful
The mid chapters got a bit tedious and the point was sometimes lost in the audiobook as there were too many examples. More concise writing would favor this format. That said, I found the content of the book excellent and will be ordering the paperback.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful