Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise – Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool Book Summary

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise – Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool | Free Book Summary

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise – Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool

How to excel in any creative field.

Perfect Pitch

It is far from being a gift a lucky few have. It can be trained: By exposing kids to tones and challenging them to match them before age 4, they can develop perfect pitch for the rest of their lives. Even adults can learn some of this, though there is some brain plasticity at that young age that makes it easier.

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Naive Practice And Purposeful Practice

Naive practice means doing something repeatedly and expecting that the repetition alone will improve one’s performance. This is how most people “practice,” but it’s ineffective.

Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals. Without such a goal, there is no way to judge whether the practice session has been a success.

Components Of Purposeful Practice

  • Purposeful practice means having a plan – putting a bunch of baby steps together to hit a long term goal, 
  • Purposeful practice is focused.
  • Purposeful practice involves feedback: you have to know whether you are doing something right and, if not, what mistakes you’re making.
  • Purposeful practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone, feeling uncomfortable. If you never push beyond your comfort zone, you’ll never improve.
  • It involves a way to monitor your progress and a system to maintain your motivation.
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Living In The World Of “Good Enough”

The reason that most people don’t possess extraordinary physical capabilities isn’t because they don’t have the capacity for them, but rather because they’re content to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it.


The traditional approach to learning is not designed to challenge this: It assumes that learning is all about fulfilling your innate, fixed potential and that you can develop a particular skill or ability without getting too far out of your comfort zone.

Mental Representations

They are mental structures that correspond to an object, an idea, a collection of information, or anything else, concrete or abstract, that the brain is thinking about.

They help with processing large amounts of information quickly, despite the limitations of short-term memory.


Your skill in anything is based on the number and quality of “mental representations” you have for the skill.

What sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and quantity of their mental representations.

The Gold Standard: Deliberate Practice

  • The field must be well developed. If there’s no competition to indicate skill, then it’s hard for there to be deliberate practice because the differences between the best are less clear.
  • Deliberate practice requires a teacher who can provide practice activities designed to help a student improve his or her performance.
  • Near maximal effort, constantly being taken out of your comfort zone by a teacher or coach Not “fun”
  • well-defined, specific goals, not aimed at “overall improvement.”
  • Full attention and conscious action, no autopilot.
  • Feedback and constant little improvements, modifying efforts in response to feedback
  • Building and modifying mental representations
  • Focusing on building and improving specific skills by focusing on aspects of those skills and improving them.

The Deliberate Practice Mindset

It offers the following view: anyone can improve, but it requires the right approach. If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way.

Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the “right way” is.

Common Performance Myths

Improvement is possible if we learn to let go of these myths:

The belief that one’s abilities are limited by one’s genetically prescribed characteristics

If you do something long enough, you’re bound to get better at it.

All it takes to improve is effort. If you just try hard enough, you’ll get better.

Effectively Practice A Skill Without A Teacher

Keep in mind the three Fs: Focus. Feedback. Fix it.

Break the skill down into components that you can do repeatedly and analyze effectively, determine your weaknesses, and figure out ways to address them.

Motivation And Maintaining Motivation

The best way to move past any plateau is to challenge your brain and body in a new way. Figure out the components of the skill that are holding you back, and find a way to push yourself more on those specific elements. Design a practice technique focused on improving that specific weakness.

To keep working on something, you need to keep the reasons to continue high, and the reasons to quit low.

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