Three Components of Deliberate Practice

I have written about the path to mastery before. Even though the path can be applied to any endeavor we wish to master, I usually explain it in terms of martial arts.

A person on the path starts of with immediate improvement. They are improving to a state that I now call good enough for that level. So after 3–6 months of practicing the student is asked to test.

Pre-testing forces the student to put things together because they know they will be judged. They have to re-learn and improve on basic ideas and concepts.

After the test, a person on the path drops their intensity and enters the Plateau phase. They are now back to working hard but not seeing as much as improvement as previously. At times this plateau seems to go on forever.

The length of plateau gets longer as you go up towards mastery. It makes sense that the amount of work between higher levels is more time consuming and it takes time to understand and conquer the increased complexity. A beginners form might be 21 moves but a senior belt form might be 70 moves.

As you progress through each learning, testing, plateau you constantly struggle with the how to reduces the length of the plateau and simply what do you do while you are on the plateau?

In teh past I have talked about the need for deliberate practice. To be honest I could not give a detailed breakdown of the components to that deliberate practice until now.

How do you explain deliberate practice? Is it just deliberate?

I was listening to Angela Duckworth on #knowledgeproject podcast and she broke down deliberate practice into three components.

First component is Hyper-Intentional. This means that you are so intentional about your practice that nothing else is more important. You must know what deliberately needs to improve and you have a plan on how to improve it.

Second component is Solo Concentration. It is very rare to be able to deliberately practice in a team. You must put in the time to solo practice. You must block out the time and the world and be one with yourself while intensely practicing.

Third component is Feedback. This could be in a form of group and or individual feedback. You must let someone else be the judge of whether what you intensely and deliberately practices has resulted in an improvement. Don’t fool yourself because you are the easiest to fool. Let someone else or team be your harsh judge. It is not personal…it is improvement driven.


Without any science to back it up, I would also add Release and Reflect as two additional components. You must release the pressure of striving towards mastery by giving yourself a break from the activity. And reflect on your current new state in order to generate the plan for your next hyper-intentional session.

It is rare when I can add a piece to my knowledge map. When I can take a piece that maybe was poorly defined and improve my ability to explain it.

I was on a run this morning about 5:30 when I heard this wisdom from Angela. I had to stop and re-listen and create a voice memo to my self in order to capture it. The ideas were that important to me. Hopefully they help you on your path to mastery.

My four cents…

Why the picture?

The look of the elderly monk has a feel of serenity with a bit of mischief in it(the eyes are slightly focused on the side). I do not know if he has mastered anything in his life or if he has reached enlightenment. I hope he has done both. BUT I am sure he has had to go through the deliberate practice and possibly release to reach a state of joy. Maybe joy is what that look models?



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Robert Trajkovski

Robert Trajkovski

I have led people and projects in Steel/ Power, Refining, Chemicals, Industrial Gasses, Software, Consulting and Academia. I have instructed 73+ courses.