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AutoPilot is the Enemy of Skill

Coach TBear speaks about the idea of "good enough."


We're all wired for "good enough", especially for mundane tasks. 

K. Anders Ericsson Ph.D. has a great article about Deliberate Practice and Expert Performance.

In it, he makes a very important argument.

It seems one of our brain's primary jobs is to reach a level of competency at an activity, just enough that the task becomes automatic, as quickly as possible. 

This decreases the demand on our working memory. 

Which allows us to get through our day as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

The trouble is, "good enough", isn't good enough for elite performance. 

Once an athlete/chess master/musician, or whoever, reaches an adequate level of performance, where they don't have to think very much about the task at hand, any further improvement is very hard to come by.


High performers often get stuck in a stage of arrested development.

When they reach a certain level of skill, more experience (more reps) won't get them any closer to their goals.  

Deliberate and Deep practice will. 

Deliberate Practice:

  1. Practice with an explicit goal of getting much better.
  2. Stay “in the moment.” Be present.
  3. Get as much feedback as possible.
  4. Regularly build new mental models of your situation/task.
  5. Do steps 1-4 regularly.

Deep Practice:

  1. Realize that rote practice is not deep practice.
  2. Emotion and visualization are necessary to create an image of what is possible.
  3. Every skill is a form of memory.
  4. Slow practice focused on fixing errors is key.
  5. Perseverance is king.

Experts have to work incredibly hard to stay engaged and to avoid automaticity (real word).

Novices and intermediates can use these principles to avoid the speedbump of premature automation and accelerate their skill acquisition. 

In what areas are you in arrested development?