3 Minute Ideas – 3. How World Class Professionals Practise

This is a series of 3 minute videos to help performers be more comfortable, confident and effective in front of an audience. Sharing powerful ideas and strategies in a short space of time.

This video is on how world class professionals practise. Based on the work of Andres Ericsson, I take a look at the different types of practice we can use, and which is the most effective.


Hello, what I want to talk to you today about is how world-class professionals practise. This is based on the work of Anders Ericsson who did research into the most effective way of practising. He came up with three different categories of practice.

Naïve practice, specific or purposeful practice, and deliberate practice. He says the most effective of these is deliberate practice.

Malcolm Gladwell took the research of Anders Ericsson and based his theory of it taking 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, and he wrote a book on it. As Ericsson would say it’s not as simple as that. Yes it’s 10,000 hours, and that’s what the research shows, but not all practice is made equal. So let’s take a look at the three different forms of practice.

First there’s naïve practice, when you play around with a piece you run it through, you repeat it. You can do the same with any skill. Now I would never stop my children doing this because it maintains interest. You can have fun doing it, and it’s a way of innovating. You can play around and discover new things. However it’s not the most effective way of achieving focused progress.

The next step up is specific or purposeful practice when you find a way of identifying areas that you feel need the most work, and you work on those specific areas. A lot of musicians will practice this way. You can do this by videoing yourself, or aurally recording yourself. This way you are stretching your skill zone, and hopefully expanding your skill zone, by working on the areas in which you need the most development. This is still not the most effective way, because the most effective way is to bring in an outside expert and this will bring you two things.

Firstly an outside expert is more likely to identify areas that you need to improve that you didn’t even realise needed improvement or that could be improved. They can see your blind spots. Secondly they can bring techniques and tools that you didn’t even realise existed, or even imagined might exist. I’ve found myself doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things in singing lessons, to work on my vocal technique, that have been hugely effective, but I would never have come up with on my own. I use this in my work too. I bring in outside experts, mentors and coaches, people who can see my blind spots and help me expand my skills zone more effectively, more efficiently, and more rapidly. I do believe there is a place for all three forms of practice.

Naïve practice means you can still keep the fun and interest, and I bring that into my work and I play around with ideas. I do this in a playful way because that helps me have fun and maintain interest, and perhaps push the boundaries.

I also do specific practice. I record myself, I look at my videos and I see things that I could improve and work on because I don’t always have time or resources to have outside experts come and help me.

When I can bring in experts, that is the most effective way of making rapid progress because they can identify the best and most effective way of me gaining improvements in the skill I want to learn, and that is the form of practice, Deliberate Practice, that Anders Ericsson says is what his 10,000 hours of practice is based on. 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

Takes an awful lot to master something!