Where does talent come from?
by Linda Zhang
Most of us have heard of the 10,000-hour rule where you do something for 10,000 hours and *poof* you’re a master. Pretty simple, right? Think again. Linda believes, “Quality practice beats quantity. For those interested in finding a shortcut to mastery, this is it.”
“Repetition builds confidence, iteration builds competence.” — Linda Zhang
The way to become a true master of a skill is through learning velocity, not experience. “We expect experience to be correlated with skill level. This is only true insofar as experience means you’ve had more opportunities to try things, make mistakes, and learn. Therefore, absolute time is an imperfect indicator of skill level.” — Linda Zhang
Mentorship/apprenticeships can be incredibly valuable because you’re (in theory) having someone at the top of their game (peak skill level or higher skill level than you) boost your learning velocity.
Linda then gets into fixed vs. flexible circuits in regards to mental circuits. “Every skill can be mapped to a mental circuit: a series of neurons that fire in a specific pattern and lead to action. Myelin is a substance that wraps these circuits and helps them reliably conduct faster signals. The more you fire the circuit, the thicker the myelin, the better your skill. Your brain is a muscle that gets stronger with practice.”
- “Fixed circuits: serve skills that require a very precise sequence of actions for peak performance like gymnastics, skating, piano.
- Technique is king, and a coach helps you refine technique faster than purely putting in the reps.
- Flexible circuits: serve skills that do not have a defined path to peak performance like writing, designing, launching a product/business.
- This is because peak performance here is finding a unique way forward, not following a well-traveled path.” — Linda Zhang
My two cents: This piece made me rethink the concept of “gradually.” Especially when Linda talks about “accelerating your learning velocity.” I don’t want gradually to get confused with the aspect of working hard vs. working smart. Working smart is far better than working hard. Although, this doesn’t mean taking shortcuts, it means quality/compoundable output over mindless repetitions.
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