Secrets of peak performance

I learned the secret of peak performance from a small-time violin teacher in Kochi city.

We hired this teacher for my daughter, whose violin practice was going nowhere — she went to many violin teachers but quit after a few practice sessions when there was no progress.

Finally, on a friend’s recommendation, we got this teacher to come all the way from Kochi to Trivandrum to give my daughter a violin lesson.

And his approach was totally different. Instead of playing the full composition, he asked my daughter to play just a small little part and get its notes right.

Every time she played, he would point out the errors, show her how to change her technique, and make her try again. In the next one hour, she learnt more than she had done in weeks, with other teachers.

Years later, when I read Anders Ericsson’s book ‘Peak Performance,’ I realized that unwittingly, this violin teacher was using the vaunted principles of deliberate practice — he chose the goal of fixing just a few notes, gave specific feedback, and repeated until she got them right.

Sadly, since the violin teacher had to travel 10 hrs to take each class, his fee was unaffordable and I couldn’t retain him. But I now wish I had just shelled out the money.

Nevertheless, I learned an unforgettable lesson: What makes you perfect is not dumb practice, but repeating the cycle of clear goals, specific feedback, and constant improvement — what is called ‘deliberate practice.’

Do that, and mastery is yours.

– Rajan


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