If you are willing to learn, the second element of the foundation is how to learn. Whilst there are different tweaks on this, the message seems clear – learning must be a deliberate and conscious act. In Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin argues that the key to elite performance is what he calls Deliberate Practice:
- It is an activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help;
- It can be replicated a lot;
- Feedback on results is continuously available;
- It’s highly demanding mentally; and
- It isn’t necessarily much fun.
Waitzkin’s approach, whilst couched in more philosophical terms, is essentially the same. In an approach he calls making smaller circles, he champions depth over breadth:
“It is rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top, but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skill set. Depth beats breadth any day of the week, because it opens a channel for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential”²
A key component of this approach, is a willingness to make mistakes in order to go forward.³ Waitzkin calls this “Investing in Loss” which led him to intentionally spar against bigger and better opponents or those he knew would play dirty in order to improve his technique.
For most readers, this philosophy is difficult to implement on a day to day basis where the realities of business performance don’t allow for ongoing on the job failures. In this case, the investment in loss must take place elsewhere.
3. Learning for task