Becoming an expert in anything—regardless of the skill—requires following a similar path. Whether your goal is to become an expert marksman or piano player, chances are, everyone is going to offer you advice. As you begin your pursuit to expertise, take note of these common misconceptions and phrases:
Lie: Practice Makes Perfect
The truth: practice makes permanent. Think about it—consistent practice does not guarantee that you are perfecting your chosen skill, but rather, that you are solidifying your practice. Consider this example: you decide to spend 30 minutes on a treadmill, 3 days a week, at the same speed and incline. After a few weeks, there will be no more improvement, since you adapted and met the demand.
If practice doesn’t challenge you, then it doesn’t change you!
Lie: He/She is Excellent Because He/She is Gifted
The truth: it is rare that genetics creates expertise. Granted, there are certain genetic abilities that provide advantage: height, limb length, visual acuity, etc. If the goal was to pursue basketball excellence, height would certainly help. But genetics is not what makes someone an expert.
Instead, according to Anders Ericsson¹, it is more likely these ‘natural talents’ displayed early were encouraged by positive feedback from peers, coaches, parents, etc. These motivators kept the individual going, which lead to achieving expertise. Late bloomers can still flourish and become experts as well!
Lie: It Takes 10,000 Hours to Become an Expert
The truth: it depends on the area of expertise. Some claim that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. However, Anders Ericsson disagrees, and for good reasons. First of all, this depends on the skill. Certain skills will require more time than others in the pursuit of excellence—becoming a skilled surgeon will take considerably more time than becoming skilled in the harmonica.
Also, how a person chooses to practice is key. If a person practices with a completely dedicated, focused mindset while taking the appropriate number of breaks, they will accomplish more in less time.
As officers choose to become experts in various arenas, it is important to keep these truths in mind. Whatever skill you choose to pursue, know that it will take time, dedication and must be challenging.
To learn more about becoming an expert, download VirTra Director of Training and Curriculum Lon Bartel’s 2021 ILEETA presentation.
Anders Ericsson- “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance” (1996)