The Science of Practice — My Illustrated Story in Hardbound

As long-time readers of this blog know, training and practice are things I’m very interested in. I’ve gone in depth on the topic in my guest post on Buffer: Why Practice Makes Perfect and my interview with Professor Anders Ericsson, who conducted the pioneering study that lead to the so-called “10,000 hour rule” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.

For the past few months, I’ve been working with Nathan Bashaw and the team at Hardbound to create an illustrated story about how practice makes us better. It’s called The Science of Practice and you should go read it now. Continue reading…


Beyond the 10,000 Hour Rule: Talking with Anders Ericsson on How People Reach Expert Performance

We’re all familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, which was made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2010 bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, Gladwell makes the argument that 10,000 hours of practice is a critical number that separates the great from the truly extraordinary. One of the bodies of work Gladwell relied on to support his thesis were from research by Florida State University Psychology Professor K. Anders Ericsson, the granddaddy of research on how people developing expertise.

Ericsson studied violinists from the West Berlin Music Academy: the highest performing students did not differ significantly from average or low performing students by IQ, family background, or other factors. The only thing that separated top students who and those who would likely end up as music teachers was the total number of hours they had logged over their lifetime engaged in deliberate, focused, independent music practice.

By the age of 20, the top students had logged over 10,000 hours of this kind of training — a nice round number that Gladwell hammered home over and over again in Outliers. [1]  Continue reading…


Training Makes it Possible

Have you ever looked at someone who was really good at what they did and felt a little daunted?

Maybe it’s how they seem to easily make connections with new people, or design an amazing-looking web page over a weekend, or how they casually mention the 6 miles they ran before breakfast today.

It’s natural to feel intimidated by someone who’s really good at what they do and get a little insecure about yourself. It happens to me on occasion. But whenever I find myself falling into that trap,  I remember something I learned from 16 years of gymnastics: Continue reading…

There’s Probably a Limit to How Fast You Can Do Squat Jumps

(Can’t see the video? Click through)

The weather has been great in DC (despite my earlier complaints about the heat) and I enjoyed shooting the finale to my July Fitness Challenge of squat jumps.

In the beginning of the month I was able to do 52 squat jumps, but you could definitely tell I was getting slower toward the end of the minute. This time around, after doing a fairly light squat training routine, I felt I kept a pretty high pace the entire time.

Basically what I’m saying is that I’m not sure if I trained really hard for a long time, I could even get to 100 squat jumps. This might be better done as an endurance thing. Ah well, you train, you learn.

FitChal #5: Increasing My Max Pull-Ups by 40%

(Click through to see the video)

As another month closes out, I’ve got the results from my May Fitness Challenge, which was max pull-ups. At the beginning of May, I completed 20 pull-ups. As per usual, I did my normal workout routine which includes a mix of running, interval workouts and heavy lifting.

In addition, I also started adding sets of pullups. Here’s the breakdown:

Week 1 + 2: 4x 12 pull-ups
Week 3: 2x 14 pull-ups + 2x 13 pull-ups
Week 4: 4x 15 pull-ups

In retrospect, I should have ramped up sooner to 13/14 sets so my last week I could have been doing sets of 16. I think that could have put me over the edge and finished 30, but who knows. In any case, I’m pretty happy with the 40% improvement, especially when I watched the tape and realized I undercounted by one at the moment of the trial.

You can catch up with my other fitness challenges, and read more about how these FitChals got started.