Tag Archive | Deliberate Practice

The Deliberate-Practice System

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

How can I optimize deliberate practice?

There are two aspects to deliberate practice:

Skill-Specific Practice
The Deliberate-Practice System

The former varies with every skill; the latter stays the same regardless of skill.

Gain clarity on and endlessly optimize the deliberate-practice system.” 

What are the components of the deliberate practice system?

I’ve identified the following:

Deconstructing Skills

Every skills is a bundle of sub-skills. To deliberately and efficiently practice a skill, you need to identify its highest-leverage sub-skills – the fundamentals. Practice the fundamentals until they become second nature.

Identifying Principles

Principles are essentially mental models. They are meaningful, abstract patterns that are transferable across disciplines.

The Practice Loop (Scott H. Young)

Repeatedly performing a skill with the intention of improving it. Deliberate practice is a feedback loop. The purpose of the loop is two-fold:

– identifying and fixing weaknesses
– identifying and internalizing quality


The most efficient way to practice is by having access to a coach. In the absence of a coach, you need to become your own coach. In this process, writing is invaluable. It helps you gain clarity on your practice, it allows you to track progress, and it helps you gain self-knowledge.

Self-knowledge? Are you still talking about deliberate practice?

All practices, regardless of form, converge on the same Path: The Path of Wisdom and Mastery.”


Funny Examples

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I make learning more fun?”

“What are you studying?”

“I want to get better at editing, so I’m studying punctuation. As part of my learning process, I’m writing a handbook [<link; short read] on the subject.”

“You’re giving a lot of examples to explain the rules, I imagine.”


One way you can make it more fun is by using funny examples.

Make it a habit to make all your examples funny from now on. You can thus practice humor at the same time.”

The Art of Asking Questions 4

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How do you deliberately practice questioning?”

“I have a system for it. I’ve even created my own terminology.

The system has several components:

  • QuestionCollecting (QCollecting)
  • QuestionGeneration (QGeneration)
  • QuestionEvaluation (QEvaluation)
  • QuestionOptimization [<link; very short read] (QOptimization)
  • QuestionTemplating [<link; medium read] (QTemplating)

QCollecting is exactly what it sounds like. I collect questions to use as tools and to learn from them. Key to this process is collecting not only good questions but also bad ones – they help you identify error patterns.

QGeneration and QEvaluation are complementary practices.

QGeneration is the practice of generating multiple alternative questions. One component of it is a practice I call QStorming [<link; short read], which is essentially BrainStorming with questions. You start with a central point of focus (QFocus), which can be a theme or a problem you’re trying to solve, and you generate questions based on that focus.

QEvaluation is the practice of narrowing down the generated questions to discover the best ones. Another aspect of it is a practice I call QAnalysis: deconstructing questions with the purpose of learning from them.

QOptimization is the practice of optimizing questions. Taking a bad question and turning it into a good question. Taking a good question and turning it into an optimal question – or set of questions.

QTemplating is the practice of turning repeated question patterns (QPatterns) into question templates (QTemplates). This means, whenever you notice multiple questions with the same structure, keeping the fixed part of the questions and replacing the changing part with variables:

How can you optimize Learning?
How can you optimize Writing?
How can you optimize x? (QTemplate)

What ties everything together is a practice I call Meta-Questioning: the process of asking questions about asking questions – I call this type of questions Meta-Questions [<link; short read] (MQ).

Can you ask a better question? (MQ)
Can you ask a bigger question? (MQ)
Can you ask a x question? (MQTemplate)
Can you ask this question better? (MQ)

The Pause

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. (Viktor Frankl)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space only if you create it. This is a practice. Brian Johnson calls it Response-ability. I call it Creating Space.”

“How do you create space?”

“There’s a quote I love by Josh Waitzkin:

The small things are the big things.

It’s such a beautiful and critical principle, and most people think they can wait around for the big moments to turn it on. But if you don’t cultivate “turning it on” as a way of life in the little moments – and there are hundreds of times more little moments than big – then there’s no chance in the big moments.

This quote expresses a key aspect of the practice – and of Mastery more generally:

Practice in the little moments of life. Practice when you don’t need it so that you are prepared when you do need it.

You create space by pausing. I call this aspect of the practice, The Pause. What this means is creating brief micro-pauses throughout the day. Think of them as metaphoric ‘break-points’.

To practice is to remember to practice. The more often you do it, the more often you’ll remember to do it. It’s a positive feedback loop.

Surround yourself with reminders.

Put written reminders in various places in your environment.

Turn things in the environment and experiences into reminders. (Anchoring)

For instance, a great thing to anchor pausing to is the transitional space/time between activities.”

“What do you fill the pauses with?”

“Start by practicing only The Pause.

Pause, breathe, and smile.

Stay with it as long as you need until you deeply internalize it. Think of it as the seed. Once the seed has been planted, you can grow it into the next stage of the practice.”

On Balance 4

Life is not a stable process. Our ability to recover is our greatest quality. (Moshe Feldenkrais)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I lost balance.”

“Recovery after losing balance is one of the most important life skills.

You can’t practice recovery without losing balance.

Losing balance is a gift. 

Every time you lose balance is an opportunity to practice recovery. Always make the most of it.”

The Essence of Meditation 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the essence of the meditation practice?”

Concentration, or Focus. Maintaining your attention on one thing in spite of distractions. This focus point is called the anchor.”

“Aren’t you supposed to focus on your breath?”

“It can be your breath or anything else. The breath is a beautiful anchor because it’s a powerful physiological tool in itself. By slowing it down, it has a calming effect.”

“Aren’t you supposed to do it in a distraction-free environment?”

“There are two types of distractions: internal and external. The main type of distractions are internal – your own thoughts. 

A distraction-free external environment makes the practice easier – though by no means easy. You progress in the practice by adding challenge. It can be adding various levels of external distraction, and/or doing it in various states of inner turmoil.”

Iterative Learning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is iterative learning?”

“Not long ago, at my brother’s suggestion, I watched a video on YouTube called Iterative Drawing, by a guy called Sycra Yasin, describing a beautiful learning method. I realized the method can be applied to learning anything, not just drawing – and so the idea of iterative learning was born.”

“What’s the essence of the method?”

“If you want to improve at anything, repetition is key. The metaphor Sycra uses is mileage

To improve, you need to get a lot of rep(etition)s in. (Quantity) There’s no way around it.

To improve faster, you need to maximize the learning from each rep. (Quality) In other words, it requires deliberate practice.

A quality-rep is a learning cycle [<link; short read]. 

Quality-rep = Learning Cycle = Feedback + Reflection

The method is brilliant in that it addresses both quantity and quality at the same time (thus increasing practice-density [<link; short read]), which allows you to gain mileage quickly.

You pick something you want to focus on (clear goals).

You fill a page (or more) with variations on that thing. Each iteration is essentially an experiment.

With each iteration, you analyze and reflect on it, extracting key lessons and principles.”

“Can you give an example of how you’re applying it to something other than drawing?”


One of the things I’m learning about is humor. I want to get better at it. 

I’m currently reading a book about humor called You Can Be Funny and Make People Laugh by Gregory Peart.

One actionable insight from the book is that direct questions are an opportunity to practice humor.

Direct questions, like, “Where are you going?” or “What are you doing?” are perfect opportunities for experimenting with unanticipated humorous responses. The question-asker is likely expecting a literal answer, so a lighthearted and funny response could result in easy humor simply because it’s unexpected.

This is an opportunity to practice iterative learning.

I write a question at the top of a page, and I start generating possible answers (thus practicing creativity at the same time). The focus is on quantity, not quality. Whenever I stumble upon a funny response, I give it a rating (1 – mildly funny, 2 – funny, 3 – very funny), and reflect on what makes it funny.

For instance:

What are you doing?


– breathing autumn. (1)
– breathtaking.
– digging for treasure. (2)
– growing hair. (3)
– hiking around the sun. (3)
– knitting. (1)
– living danjerously. (2)
– playing at adulting. (3)
– pacticing average. (1)
– practicing awkwardness.
– questing. (1)
– ruminating ruminations. (1)

The goal is to do as many as possible. Dozens. This is an open process [<link; short read]. Whenever I come up with another idea, I add it to the page.”

On practicing Quality

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How many re(petition)s did you do?”


“How many quality reps?”

“Maybe two or three.”

“Those are the only ones that count.

Make it a habit to only count quality reps.

“How can I maximize the number of quality reps?”

“Make it a game. Remind yourself of it by setting the intention before every practice.

Be your own coach. Slow down. Create space for reflection.

Make every rep a learning cycle [<link; short read].”

The Parkour Walk

Be your unapologetically weird self. (Chris Sacca)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I go for a walk every single day. It’s not your typical walk. It’s a game.”

“What’s the game about?”

“It’s one of those endlessly evolving games. 

Structurally, it’s a collection of rules and themes. The rules serve as creative limitations [<link; short read]; the themes serve as guidelines. 

The game is modular. Adding and removing rules and themes is itself a part of the game.

The main theme of the game is Parkour.”

“So you’re training Parkour every day?”

“Yes. And I plan to never stop.

The game is a playful exploration of my neighborhood – or whatever location I’m in. 

The main rule of the game is to always take a different route.

We have a tendency to take the same route and do the same things every time, to get stuck in habitual patterns. The rule ties in with one of the game’s themes, which is pattern-breaking – breaking out of familiar patterns.

In taking a different route I’m also scouting the neighborhood to discover potential training spots and challenges, and I’m creating a mental training map.

Another theme of the game is what I call creative training. Going beyond the obvious, and looking for creative training possibilities within the environment.

One aspect of it is an idea I adore, which I know from Max Henry [<link], one of my favorite Parkour practitioners and coaches. It’s called Something Out of Nothing. Looking at a seemingly uninteresting spot in the environment and coming up with creative ways of playing with it.

Another theme is Quantity. By that, I mean maximizing training density. Getting as much training done as possible within that time span. One aspect of it is maximizing the use of what I call transitional space – the space between training spots or rep(etition)s.”

“Can you give an example?”

“Let’s say I want to get from training spot A to training spot B. The space between the spots is a transitional space. I could walk the distance, or I could QM the distance – traverse it using Quadruperdal Movement, so on all fours. In the second case, I’m increasing training density, I get more training done.

Or let’s say I jump from point A to point B. This is one rep. I could choose to walk back to A and do another rep, or to jump back from B to A. In the second case, I’m increasing training density. In the same time span I’ve performed two reps instead of one.

Another theme is Quality. The how is as important as the what. This means striving to be as present as possible at all times, and only counting quality reps – or beautiful reps, as I like to call them.

Another theme is Variety. I aim to move in as many different ways as possible. In the same session I might jump on the markings of a parking lot, balance on a fence, vault over a garbage can, climb a tree, roll on a patch of grass, do a wall-run followed by a climb-up, etc.

I live on the 8th floor, so every session ends with a little strength & conditioning session up the stairs – I always take the stairs.

And yet another theme is a focus on the fundamentals of Parkour. I don’t train only the fundamentals, but there’s no session in which I don’t train some of them.”

“Don’t you mind looking weird to the people around you?”

“That’s an essential aspect of the practice.”

On discomfort

Be uncomfortable every day of your life. (David Goggins)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Embrace discomfort.”

“Derek Sivers calls information expressed as advice, directives. That is a vague directive. Which is not to say that it lacks value.

The most valuable information is that which has an actionable kernel.” 

“What is an actionable kernel?”

“It means an idea that can be put into action.

It can be an implicit kernel, like in your directive, or an explicit kernel

The implicit kernel needs to be identified [values sensitivity], extracted, and given actionable form. The explicit kernel can be put into action immediately.

Let us explore the actionable kernel in this instance. Let’s do it in the form of directives.

What does embracing discomfort mean?

We might say it means,

Cultivate a positive relationship with discomfort.

Still vague, but it suggests that it’s not just a one time thing, but an ongoing process.

We might say it means,

Practice discomfort.

To cultivate a positive relationship with discomfort, you need to practice it. There’s no other way. To increase efficiency, you need to deliberately practice it.

That means,

Move toward discomfort, rather than away from it.

Our natural tendency is to move away from discomfort. This suggests doing the exact opposite [inversion].

The key to the process is repetition and oscillation. The more often you do it, the greater the benefit, as long as every rep(etition) is followed by an appropriate recovery [stress/recovery oscillation]. Every rep that is followed by reflection is a learning cycle [<link; short read].

There’s two ways to get more reps in:

Seek out discomfort.

This means, when given two options, picking the more uncomfortable one.

Create discomfort. 

This means, creating opportunities to practice discomfort. They can be in the form of discomfort challenges.

There’s two kinds of discomfort: physical discomfort, and emotional discomfort. Well, technically both are physical discomfort, but the latter have a very specific signature. 

Dealing with physical discomfort does not transfer to dealing with emotional discomfort. 

In her book 90 Seconds to a Life You Love, Joan Rosenberg identified the most common uncomfortable emotions as being eight in number:


You can do push-ups and pull-ups in the thousands and not get a single step closer to dealing with vulnerability.

Each individual uncomfortable emotion is a practice in itself.

The practice in case of emotional discomfort is to

Fully experience discomfort.

Give it your full attention, lovingly and non-judgmentally, over and over and over and over and over again.

Like meditation.”

“Which of the eight feelings do you struggle with most?”

“Shame and vulnerability.”