Constructing Drills for Deliberate Practice

The secret to achieving unparalleled performance

Have you ever seen someone build a mold? It’s somewhat mind blowing. The craftsmanship that goes into building something that is not the actual desired end result is so counterintuitive that it seems crazy before you see how it’s used. Here’s someone putting in an enormous effort into some ugly and confusing contraption that you are sure is destined for the garbage heap. Then suddenly, after hours or days of inextricable toil, they pour a liquid into their Frankenstein contraption, crack it open, and out from it emerges a beautiful masterpiece. It looks absolutely nothing like the thing they built up until now.

It turns out that this process is mirrored for building your own mastery in any skillset. When you watch a master perform their skill, it seems like magic. And if you were to watch the countless hours of toil that went into that performance over the years, the activities they partake in would seem alien and unrelated. The key to seemingly effortless execution when the time comes is extremely targeted deliberate practice beforehand. First you have to break down the end skill you want to have into its constituent parts. Try to break it into pieces as small and fundamental as possible. Then for each piece, construct a highly intentional drill or kata for building it into muscle memory. Build your mold. The drill will likely not look cool. That’s the not the point. The point of the drill is to create a consistently honed outcome for some small behavior. Honed down to a deadly edge.

In the context of writing code, an example of a mold would be typing practice. Typing practice that includes typing all the numbers and symbols that show up in common coding languages. Get blank keycaps on your keyboard or put blank stickers on top of the letters so that you train yourself out of the habit of looking at your hands. Look at the screen as you type so that you can see what you are typing as it happens. Burn in the muscle memory for where all of the characters on the keyboard are so that you can type with your eyes closed. Do this for 30 minutes to an hour every morning before you start working every single day. Months from now everyone will wonder how you’re delivering five times the features everyone else does. When people watch you work, you’ll just seem faster somehow. They won’t be able to put their finger on just why. That’s because they’ll only see the finished product. They don’t see the mold.

Another example is to use a code editor with many keyboard shortcuts. Review lists of hotkeys on forums after your workday finishes. Incorporate new hotkeys into your workflow on a regular basis as soon as you get the hang of the previous ones. Again onlookers will simply feel your speed, they won’t know exactly why you’re faster.

The key to high performance in any field are these drills in the background. If you ever see someone do something amazing and think it’s talent, think again. Somewhere out of your sight, when no one is paying attention, that person is pouring an unconscionable number of hours into honing the esoteric minutiae of their craft. While you were busy accepting your mediocrity as immutable, they were challenging themselves to develop specialized behaviors that would give them an edge here, an edge there. Competency doesn’t manifest fully formed in a day, it’s built brick by brick out of the limelight. It’s built with a critical eye and a purposeful humility. To the uninitiated, it appears as talent or a god-given gift. But those of us who achieve it know it is simply the result of Deliberate Practice.

Copyright © 2023 Silicon Hemisphere, LLC

Copyright © 2023 Silicon Hemisphere, LLC

Copyright © 2023 Silicon Hemisphere, LLC