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"The Mundanity Of Excellence"

The author discusses a study by Daniel Chambliss titled "The Mundanity of Excellence" which found that top swimmers achieved excellence through aggregating mundane, ordinary actions. There was no dramatic moment or superhuman ability that led to their success - just consistently doing the small things right, day after day, year after year.

The best swimmers had developed a strong work ethic, logged more hours of purposeful practice, and had refined small but important details of their technique. Chambliss argued that talent was overrated and that "superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then are fitted together in a synthesized whole."

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

Deliberate Practice For Expert Performance

Deliberate practice is a specific form of training that is key to developing expertise in any field. It involves:

  1. Working on well-defined, specific goals at the edge of one's ability
  2. Receiving immediate, informative feedback
  3. Ample time for repetition and gradual refinement
  4. Intense focus and concentration, often alone
  5. Reflection and modification of efforts in response to feedback

Deliberate practice is not the same as rote repetition. It requires getting out of one's comfort zone, constantly striving to improve, and actively analyzing and addressing weaknesses. While it is not always enjoyable, it is essential for breaking through plateaus and achieving elite levels of performance.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book:

Author:

Deliberate Practice And The Path To Expertise

Chapter 8 dives into the science of skill development and the role of deliberate practice in building expertise. The key takeaways are:

  • Skill development follows a predictable path from the cognitive stage (intellectualizing the task) to the associative stage (refining technique) to the autonomous stage (performing automatically)
  • Deliberate practice is the key to reaching the autonomous stage and achieving genuine expertise. It involves focused, repetitive practice with immediate feedback, and it's not inherently enjoyable.
  • Deliberate practice works best for skills that are stable (the rules don't change) and self-contained (not dependent on others). It's ideal for building technique, but less effective for developing judgment or creativity.
  • Talent matters, but deliberate practice is essential. The "10,000 hour rule" is an oversimplification - the quality and specificity of practice matters as much as the quantity.
  • The key to deliberate practice is to push yourself just beyond your current ability, seek constant feedback, and embrace the discomfort. It's hard work, but it's the only path to expertise.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

Skill Versus Luck: Two Approaches To Improving Performance

Consider two different approaches to improving performance, depending on where the activity falls on the luck-skill continuum:

  • For activities near the skill side of the continuum, focus on deliberate practice. The key is to break down the task, get repetitions with immediate feedback, and continually push beyond your current abilities.
  • For activities near the luck side of the continuum, focus on a well-designed process. The key is to think probabilistically, have a sound decision-making process, and stick to it even when faced with adverse outcomes. In the middle of the continuum, use a blend of both approaches.

Mental models and decision frameworks can improve pattern recognition and probabilistic thinking The key is to match your improvement strategy to the nature of the task and the role of luck versus skill in determining outcomes.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

Learning from Rice Paddies: The Power of Meaningful Work and Effort

Rice farming, like the garment industry discussed earlier, exemplifies meaningful work with a clear link between effort and reward, complexity, and autonomy. The demanding nature of rice cultivation fostered a culture of hard work, persistence, and a strong connection between effort and reward.

This emphasis on hard work and persistence translates into a cultural advantage for math, as seen in the superior performance of Asian students on international tests.

Gladwell challenges the assumption of innate math ability and suggests that cultural legacies and attitudes toward effort play a significant role in shaping math skills.

Section: 2, Chapter: 8

Book: Outliers

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Becoming An Expert - 10,000 Hours To Greatness

Building on the idea that muscle memory mastery requires extensive practice, the author discusses Malcolm Gladwell's famous "10,000-hour rule" from his book Outliers - that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in any skill.

She relates this to her own history as a dancer, noting that while it may only take 4 hours of practice to master a new dance routine, her ability to do so draws on a lifetime of dance training likely adding up to 10,000+ hours. More practice leads to physical changes in the motor cortex, with more neural territory devoted to the skill. While 10,000 hours isn't a hard and fast rule, the key insight is that exceptional skill comes from a huge amount of focused practice leading to strengthened neural connections.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Remember

Author: Lisa Genova

Grit Paragons Have Passion For A Top-Level Goal

In interviews with grit paragons, the author found they all framed their work in terms of a top-level, life-organizing goal.

This top-level goal acts as a compass that guides and motivates gritty people. All their mid-level and low-level goals support this ultimate aim. Having a unifying passion brings coherence and meaning to day-to-day efforts.

Grit paragons aren't just performance machines - they're also deeply motivated by the significance of what they do. They believe their work has purpose and meaning beyond themselves. Passion for a top-level goal and a sense of purpose go hand in hand for the grittiest people.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

Grit Predicts Success In Varied Domains

The author found grit predicted success in diverse areas like the National Spelling Bee, sales jobs, Chicago public high schools, and graduation from two-year colleges.

  • In a study of Spelling Bee contestants, grittier kids practiced more and performed better in the actual competition. In a study of salespeople, grit was the best predictor of job retention.
  • For Chicago high school juniors, grit scores predicted graduation rates more than how much students cared about school, their conscientiousness, and even their feelings of safety at school.
  • Grit also predicted which students would graduate from two-year colleges, a context where the dropout rate can be as high as 80%.
  • Across various populations, grit accounted for significant variance in success outcomes over and beyond IQ, conscientiousness, and other variables.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

Achievement Versus Success

There is an important distinction between achievement and success:

  • Achievement is about hitting a goal, milestone, metric. It's focused on WHAT you attain or accomplish.
  • Success is a feeling or state of being. It's about WHY you do what you do and feeling fulfilled by it.

Many high achieving people are surprised to realize they don't feel successful despite their outward accomplishments. That's because achievement alone doesn't satisfy our deeper desire for meaning and purpose.

Achievement comes from pursuing and attaining WHAT you want. Success comes from clearly knowing and staying true to WHY you want it. Organizations that drift away from their WHY may continue to achieve, but they will cease to inspire the success that comes from a clarity of purpose.

Section: 5, Chapter: 11

Book: Start with Why

Author: Simon Sinek

The Diversity of Nobel Laureates

"Compared to other scientists, Nobel laureates are at least twenty-two times more likely to partake as an amateur actor, dancer, magician, or other type of performer."

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Range

Author: David Epstein

Will Smith's Relentless Work Ethic

"The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me. You might be all of those things. You got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there's two things: You're getting off first, or I'm going to die. It's really that simple." - Will Smith

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

The Figlie del Coro: Musical Virtuosos from the Venetian Ospedali

The figlie del coro, orphaned girls raised in Venetian ospedali, became renowned musicians during the Baroque period. Their mastery of multiple instruments and diverse musical styles challenged conventional notions of specialization and highlighted the benefits of broad musical training in fostering creativity and adaptability.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Range

Author: David Epstein

Pushing Past the OK Plateau

The central lesson from Ericsson's research is that the right kind of practice makes perfect. If you want to get better at anything, you have to constantly push outside your comfort zone, try things that are hard for you, and critically analyze your performance for ways to improve. Some key elements of deliberate practice include:

  • Set well-defined, specific goals and subgoals. Break the skill down and work on the hardest parts in isolation.
  • Get immediate feedback on your performance. Don't just rely on your own subjective experience - use a coach, video yourself, or gather objective data to see what you're doing wrong.
  • Concentrate deeply and actively. Mere repetition isn't enough. Stay focused and mentally engaged with the task, searching for areas of weakness and experimenting with improvements.
  • Aim for challenges just beyond your current abilities. If practice becomes easy, make it harder again. The feeling of strain and mental effort is a sign you're in the zone of maximal improvement.

With this kind of practice, Ericsson and colleagues have shown that virtually anyone can achieve remarkable abilities in fields as disparate as violin, chess, gymnastics, and memory. Talent matters much less than how you train.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Moonwalking with Einstein

Author: Joshua Foer

The Paradox Of Skill: Why Bigger Advantages Lead To Smaller Edges

The paradox of skill states that as the overall skill level in a field increases, luck becomes more important in determining outcomes. Consider baseball as an example. As training techniques and technology have improved, the average skill level of MLB players has increased over time. But the dispersion of skill has decreased. The best players today aren't as far above average as the best players 100 years ago. The paradox has important implications:

  • In highly skilled fields, small differences in skill can lead to big differences in outcomes, because luck plays a larger role
  • Sustaining a competitive advantage becomes harder as rivals get better at copying best practices
  • Past success becomes less predictive of future success
  • Forecasting becomes more difficult, because luck drowns out skill
  • The key lesson: don't assume that an edge will persist, especially in highly skilled, competitive domains. What worked before may not keep working.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

Sleep Is The Greatest Legal Performance-Enhancing "Drug"

"Sleep is the greatest legal performance-enhancing 'drug' that most people are probably neglecting. Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You'll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?"

Section: 2, Chapter: 6

Book: Why We Sleep

Author: Matthew Walker

The Expert's Expert

Chapter 2 introduces Anders Ericsson, a professor at Florida State University and the world's leading expert on expertise. Ericsson has spent decades studying expert performers, from mental athletes to chess grandmasters to virtuoso violinists, in order to understand how they achieve their incredible skills. His core finding is that expertise comes through a very specific type of practice he terms "deliberate practice" - focused, goal-directed training performed with full concentration and immediate feedback, consistently pushing past one's comfort zone. Innate talent is less important than the right kind of training.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Moonwalking with Einstein

Author: Joshua Foer

Skill, Luck, and Sample Size

One of the key lessons is the relationship between skill, luck, and sample size. In short:

  • The more an activity is influenced by skill, the smaller the sample size needed to detect differences in skill
  • The more an activity is influenced by luck, the larger the sample size needed to detect differences in skill

For example, if you want to know who the best chess player is, you might only need to see a small number of games. But if you want to know who the best investor is, you'd need to see results over a very long period, because short-term investing outcomes are heavily influenced by luck. Always consider sample size when evaluating performance. Don't read too much into small samples, especially where luck is involved.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

The Power Laws Of Performance

Mauboussin examines the surprising statistical regularities that show up across many domains of human performance. The key finding is that many performance metrics follow a power law distribution, wherein:

  • A small number of top performers account for a disproportionate share of the total output
  • The gap between the best and the rest is much larger than a normal distribution would predict.

For Example:

  • City sizes (a few mega-cities, many small towns)
  • Wealth distribution (a few billionaires, many people of modest means)
  • Bestseller lists (a few blockbuster hits, many low-selling titles)
  • Scientific citations (a few papers with massive impact, many rarely-cited papers)

The power law pattern arises from the complex social dynamics that shape success in these domains - in particular, the rich-get-richer effects of cumulative advantage.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

Ray Dalio on Steve Jobs

In studying the lives of successful people, Ray Dalio was struck by how Apple founder Steve Jobs embodied the qualities of a "shaper" - someone who can go from envisioning remarkable things to actually building them, often in the face of intense skepticism.

Reflecting on Jobs, Dalio notes: "Steve Jobs was probably the greatest and most iconic shaper of our time, as measured by the size and success of his shaping. Jobs built the world's largest and most successful company by revolutionizing computing, music, communications, animation, and photography with beautifully designed products."

But being a shaper is not all glamorous - it involves the taste for constant battle against skeptics and the ability to withstand failure. Dalio points out how a shaper like Jobs could never have achieved what he did without also developing.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Principles

Author: Ray Dalio

The Power Of Checklists

In complex domains where skill and luck interact, Chapter 8 recommends using checklists to enhance performance and reduce errors. The key insights are:

  • Checklists are powerful tools for managing complexity and ensuring consistency. They help us apply our knowledge reliably, especially under pressure.
  • Checklists come in two main forms: READ-DO (step-by-step instructions for a complex task) and DO-CONFIRM (a verification tool to ensure nothing was missed).
  • Checklists are most useful for tasks that are important, prone to error, and have multiple steps that can be codified.
  • The best checklists are precise, efficient, and easy to use in real working conditions.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

10,000 Hours to Mastery: The Role of Practice in Achieving Expertise

Extensive research across various domains, from music to chess to sports, reveals a common thread: achieving world-class expertise requires approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. This challenges the notion of innate talent as the primary driver of success and emphasizes the importance of consistent, dedicated effort in developing mastery.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Outliers

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Coping When it Counts

Elite athletes, emergency responders, surgeons - high stakes are just another Tuesday for these folks. Yet they consistently rise to the occasion. Their secret? A challenge mindset.

Research shows how you mentally frame stress changes how it physically impacts you. Seeing stress as a tool to sharpen your skills has the opposite effect - you feel more confident, energized and in control.

  • Normalize it. Remind yourself that feeling adrenalized before a big event is human and helpful. Those jitters are gearing you up to rock it.
  • Mine it for meaning. How does this challenge tie to your larger purpose? Let that big picture view put things in perspective.
  • Visualize your coping. Imagine yourself navigating discomfort gracefully, not just a flawless end product. Mental rehearsal primes your brain for success.
  • Aim for excellence, not perfection. Perfection is brittle and binary. Excellence allows for humanity while still reaching high.

Section: 7, Chapter: 31

Book: Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?

Author: Julie Smith

Talent And Effort Are Not Enough

The author proposes two equations that explain how talent and effort lead to achievement:

  1. Talent x Effort = Skill
  2. Skill x Effort = Achievement

Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. People may start out with different levels of talent, but it's the amount and consistency of effort that determines growth in skill over time.

Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them in a focused way. You can be tremendously talented, but if you don't put in the effort to develop and apply your skills, you won't achieve much. Effort is the amplifier that converts talent into skill, and skill into achievement. In other words, effort counts twice!

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

Champions and Habits

"Champions don't do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they've learned."

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: The Power of Habit

Author: Charles Duhigg

The Science of Expertise

In Chapter 8, Foer dives deeper into the research of Anders Ericsson on expert performance. Ericsson's core finding is the "10,000 hour rule" - the idea that true mastery in any cognitively demanding field, be it music, chess, or memory, requires roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve.

But equally important is the type of practice required. Ordinary practice, just doing the same thing over and over again, leads to minimal improvement in the long run. We quickly reach a basic level of proficiency Ericsson calls the "OK plateau," where continued experience yields diminishing returns. To keep improving, it's necessary to engage in deliberate practice - focused, goal-directed training at the edge of one's abilities, constantly reaching for challenges just beyond one's current level of competence. This kind of practice is hard work. It requires intense concentration and isn't always fun.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Moonwalking with Einstein

Author: Joshua Foer

Obsession Isn't A Disorder - It's A Prerequisite For Extraordinary Achievement

Obsession means being completely consumed by your goals and doing everything in your power to achieve them. This single-minded drive is common to all highly successful people. It means being:

  • Relentless and unstoppable in the pursuit of your dreams
  • Willing to do things others consider unnecessary or even crazy
  • Completely focused and fixated on your purpose and mission
  • Determined to succeed even when you feel tired, discouraged or doubtful Embrace obsession - it's the rocket fuel that propels you to 10X heights.

Section: 1, Chapter: 12

Book: The 10X Rule

Author: Grant Cardone

Skill And Luck: Definitions And Impact On Success

Chapter 1 opens by defining the key concepts of skill and luck. Skill is "the ability to use one's knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance." It can be developed through deliberate practice. Luck, on the other hand, is a chance occurrence outside of one's control that can be good or bad.

Most outcomes in life are due to a combination of skill and luck. The more an activity relies on skill, the more predictable the outcomes. The more an activity is influenced by luck, the less predictable it becomes. Understanding where an activity lies on the skill-luck continuum is critical for evaluating past results and forecasting future performance.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

When Experience And Expertise Diverge

A key insight is that experience and expertise are not the same thing. Experience is a measure of time spent in an activity. Expertise is a measure of skill level attained.

In some domains, experience and expertise go hand in hand. The more you do something, the better you get at it. This is often true for simple, stable skills like typing or bike riding. But in other domains, the two can diverge. More experience does not always translate into more expertise. This is common in complex, unpredictable domains like investing or strategic decision-making.

The key difference is feedback. In domains with clear, rapid, unambiguous feedback, experience breeds expertise. But in domains with noisy, delayed, or ambiguous feedback, experience can breed overconfidence without true expertise. The actionable insight is to be wary of equating experience with expertise, especially in uncertain domains. Look for objective measures of skill, not just years on the job.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

Using Variance To Measure Skill

Another approach to quantifying skill and luck is to use statistical concepts like variance and correlation. The idea is that skill contributes to "true" differences in performance that persist over time, while luck contributes random noise that cancels out over time. By measuring the variance in performance across different time periods, we can estimate how much of the total variance is due to skill (persistent differences) vs. luck (transient noise).

For example, if we measure the year-to-year variance in batting averages for a large sample of MLB players, we can calculate that about 50% of the total variance is explained by "true" skill, while the other 50% is due to luck. Similar calculations show that skill explains about 88% of the variance in NBA winning percentages, but only 62% in NFL winning percentages.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

The Paradox Of Skill Revisited

Chapter 10 revisits the paradox of skill and its implications for performance in various domains. The key points are:

  • In many competitive domains, absolute skill levels have risen over time, but relative skill differences have shrunk. The best performers are not as far ahead of the pack as they once were.
  • As a result, luck plays a larger role in determining outcomes than it did in the past. The paradox of skill states that luck becomes more important as skill improves.
  • The paradox of skill helps explain phenomena like the decline of dynasties in sports, the increasing unpredictability of the stock market, and the high turnover rate of market leaders in business.
  • To succeed in a high-skill world, you need to focus relentlessly on the factors you can control, have a resilient process that can withstand short-term luck, and set realistic expectations about sustainable advantages.

Section: 1, Chapter: 10

Book: The Success Equation

Author: Michael Mauboussin

Routines Allow Peak Performance

Routines help automate the essential. When we build habits and routines around our most essential activities, we free up mental energy from deciding what to do and can instead channel that energy into doing it well. Routines combat decision fatigue and create mental space for being fully present and at our best.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps had a specific routine he followed religiously on race days - from what time he woke up to what he ate to his warm up laps in the pool. This allowed him to not overthink the race but simply execute. His coach noted that Phelps was often halfway done with his winning routine before his competitors even arrived at the pool. Routine enabled peak performance.

Section: 4, Chapter: 18

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

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