Six Keys to Deliberate Practice

Six Keys to Deliberate Practice

What are the key things that separate the best from the rest? If you said ‘practice’ then you’re half-right.

In his brilliant book Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin suggests ‘Deliberate Practice’ is the difference between the top performers and the also-rans. It’s not random practice. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s a life-long pursuit of specific training to improve your performance in a chosen domain by following six specific rules. Here are the six keys to deliberate practice and how you can use this essential process to transform your performance from good to great.

1 Designed

It’s not some ad-hoc way to fill in time. It’s designed particularly to improve performance. The key is to isolate specific aspects of what you do and focus on those until they have improved. Then you move onto the next element. Hitting ball after ball on the driving range is not specific enough. Instead practise hitting out of the rough or the bunker.

2 Feedback

If you don’t have continuous feedback you won’t get any better and you’ll lose interest. Your coach can also give you a clear, honest assessment of your performance – particularly when an interpretation of your performance, as in music, art or business, is required.

3 Help

It’s difficult to do deliberate practice on your own. Get a coach, mentor or teacher to guide you. Even the fastest man in the world has a coach. It’s not that the coach can run faster, it’s that they can see things you cannot see yourself. Also, outside help is particularly important in the beginning to design your practice to your specific needs. You need someone who knows what you need. As you develop your expertise it may be feasible to create your own programs.

[Tweet “The one thing that separates the best from the rest #success”]

4 Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

It’s not enough to be able to complete a task a few times. You need to repeat it in high volume, over and over again. Repeat it often enough so you can perform the clutch shot when it counts. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

5 Stretch

Deliberate practice is mentally demanding. It requires focus and concentration – it’s meant to be demanding. If it’s not a stretch, you’re not going to grow. And, continually stretching is demanding. Four to five hours a day seems to be the limit in sessions lasting 60-90 minutes. Step out of your comfort zone and practise skills that are just out of reach. The key skill is often not what you think you are doing, it is the development of focus and concentration.

Geoff Colvin - Talent is Overrated

6 Not Fun

If it’s demanding mentally, it means it won’t be fun and that’s precisely the point. It won’t be enjoyable and that’s why so few people do it and why so few people become great performers.


  • Book Rapper issue, Anti-Self-Help
  • Geoff Colvin; Talent is Overrated: What REALLY Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else; Nicholas Brearley; London; 2008.

Your Challenge

The big question is: Are you up for the challenge?

  1. Which skills do you want to be brilliant at? For instance, do you want to write like Hemingway, present like Steve Jobs or sell like a superstar?
  2. What would be the benefit of practicing to be brilliant at this skill? Will it boost your career, satisfy your soul or earn you lots of money?
  3. What are you willing to do to improve this skill?

Are you willing to undertake deliberate practice to make it to the top, or not?

QUESTION: Let us know what you’re going to practice in a comment below.


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