The root of excellence

Have you ever wondered why doing something for a long time makes you intuitively good at it. I mean an experienced chef without measuring would be able to put together the right amount of water, salt and other ingredients for a said meal. It will take an experienced designer just a simple look at an individual to know his waist size, height, broadness, shoe size and just the perfect cuts of materials without measure to sew him a perfect clothing.
What inherent part of us, enables us to intuitively know the right answers to questions, and make decisions that needs more than just mere guess work.

If practice leads to perfection;
What is it in practice that leads to perfection. And what is it about practice that causes perfection.

Is it the fact that practice basically changes our approach. If so should we get rid of the long practice and just change people’s mindset when it comes to approach, or is there just more to how practice leads to excellence.
Food for thought.

Please share this post with as many people as possible, and lets see what answers we come up with.

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2 thoughts on “The root of excellence

  1. I found your blog after you liked one of my posts on my blog (thanks for that by the way), so I thought I would share my answer with you.

    Practice makes perfect is the type of phrase that we like to call “folk psychology.” Phrases like this, or others like, “birds of a feather flock together,” are ways our culture has seen patterns over time. Some of these observations turn out to be quite true, while others miss the mark. As for practice makes perfect, it is obviously correct. Here is why.

    Their are two functions at work with expertise – the procedural memory, and the chunking of information.

    The procedural memory is our associative memory. If you train a dog with a command, you will be using it’s procedural memory. For example, you say, “sit,” the dog sits, and it gets a bit of food. The dog has associated food to the command “sit,” and it knows the proper response. As you continue to do this with the dog, the procedural memory actually bypasses the working memory and behavior can occur as a reaction, instead of as a decision. This is very important to understand-> We need our procedural memories to actually function at a faster rate than our working memories for the sake of survival. After something has been reinforced enough, behaviors become reactions.

    Imagine a new player playing tennis. The ball is coming for them and they have a lot to think about. They think about where the ball is going to go, the type of spin that ball has, where their opponent is, where their feet should be, if they should forehand or back hand, where to air, how much spin, and so on. What is going through the mind of a pro player though? Since so much of their behavior is automated due to expertise, they just think “where will the ball land, and where do I want to hit it.” This frees up there working memory and allows them to make a much better decision than someone juggling 8 factors at once.

    Now chunking. Chunking is a memory tool used by experts. They are able to take large amount of information and store it configurally. An example of this is comparing a grandmaster chess player versus a novice chess player. If you show each of them a chess board with a specific layout, the expert has no trouble remembering the exact location of each piece. The reason is, they look at the way things are clustered together in relation to one another, while a novice will look at the position of each piece.

    What does this mean? When you are expert enough, you can identify meaningful stimuli, such as “this much liquid is about 1 cup” for a chef, or, “the ball that was just hit by my opponent will be cross court based on his hitting posture.” In the case of tennis, the player seems to have amazing reaction time, but in reality, they are reacting to the posture of the opponent instead of watching exactly where the ball is going.

    In the end, as one becomes more familiar with a type of stimulus, they are able to break it down into easy to understand and meaningful parts. Combine this with your procedural memory and you begin to react to situations based on specific events. Over time, you train yourself to react to certain configurations and it frees up a lot of the overload on your working memory. So you can focus more on what actions will accomplish your goal, instead of how to preform the actions in the first place.

    Anyways, that’s just my thoughts from the realm of cognitive psychology.

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