4 Lessons from Peak | Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool

The Ultimate Secret To Mastering Your Craft

Jack Yang
5 min readNov 16, 2020
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise


When I first picked up this book, I thought it would be another “one of those” self-help books that get you hyped with empty motivation. Little did I know, this book completely changes the way I understand practice and mastery. This book is where the term “deliberate practice” is introduced. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, contrasted to mindless and repetitive practice, deliberate practice is a type of mindful and purposeful practice that can get you the optimal improvements. Personally, I came across this book at the perfect time because I was having trouble improving my basketball jump shot. No matter how many shots I took, or how many YouTube tutorials I watched on shooting the basketball, there seems to be no improvement at all. This book provides me with a new perspective on how I can get better, not just in basketball, but in virtually any other field, with the proper practicing technique and mindset. I hope my lessons from this book can help you to master your craft more effectively.

Score: 4.75/5

Recommendation: anyone who wants to be better at a particular skill


1. Forget 10,000 Hours, Practice Deliberately

A common misconception is that 10,000 hours is required to achieve mastery in a certain area. While a lot of practice does certainly help one to achieve one’s maximum potential and master one’s craft, the practice itself will would not necessarily bring you up to the next level. To use me as an example, as I mentioned previously, I had trouble making shots in basketball. Like most people who are determined to improve, I spent a lot of time on the basketball court, just shooting the ball over and over again. However, to my dismay, after weeks of practicing, my jump shots not only did not seem to improve, but my accuracy seems to get worse than before. Needless to say, this is very frustrating, and I’m not alone in this scenario. Fortunately, I came across this book, and I began to understand my practices before are extremely low quality.

In the book, the author differentiates mindless practice from deliberate practice. Mindless practice is the kind of practice that consists of repetitive and low-quality movements. Some people seem to work harder than others but yet fail to see the improvements as much as those who work less. Such disappointments are usually the result of mindless practices. On the other hand, a more efficient and effective approach to practice is deliberate practice. Deliberate practice a type of purposeful and mindful practice that has a well-defined goal, and involves tiny steps that are outside the comfort zone. In other words, deliberate practice is about laying out a concrete progression on how to improve. During each stage of the progression, you have to bring out your full effort and are constantly challenged until you improve enough to get into the next stage.

2. It’s ALL About Mental Representation

Mental representation is the key that separates regular people from masters. It is a set of highly specialized neural circuitry that allows the performer to behave in the most optimal way or understand how to improve. For example, when Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golf players in history, swings the golf club, he has a clear idea of how he should hold the club, how much force to use, where the ball will go, etc. The same applies to many other industries besides sports. But where does the mental representation come from? The answer is deliberate practice. As mentioned earlier, deliberate practice involves constantly challenging yourself. A missing piece of the puzzle is immediate feedback. When you are outside your comfort zones, it is very easy to get entangled in the complexity of the task and forgets about the correctness of your performance. There is when feedback is so important because it allows you to get back on track or help you to become aware of your mistakes. This is relatively easy when you have an instructor to guide you; however, when you are practicing alone, or you reach a certain level of proficiency that it is difficult to find a proper instructor, you have to use become self-conscious of your actions. In this case, self-monitor is critically important because, if you continue to practice inaccurately, the errors will compound over time and deviate you further from the true mastery.

A good way to have immediate feedback when you are practicing solo is to find tutorials on how pros do it, build a clear mental representation of how the correct process should look like. During practice, ask yourself if you are aligning with the proper techniques after each repetition, if not, fix it immediately, and continue to build on top of your correct practice. Therefore, it is also important to mention the importance of full-attention since the slightest distraction could hinder the productivity of your practice. By repeating the self-monitoring process, you are not only getting closer to mastery but also reinforcing the correct mental representativeness.

3. The Complete Puzzle of Deliberate Practice

In the previous sections, I list out the bits and pieces to a proper regime of deliberate practice. In this section, I will lay out all the necessary components to successful deliberate practice:

  • Clear Mental Representations: The point of deliberate practice is to make you build better mental representations, which will help you to perform better and more skillful.
  • Well Defined, Specific Goals: before your practice, you should understand exactly where you want to improve on, and how the end result should look like. Such careful planning would give you a clear goal to aim at when you practice and develop your mental representation. For example, instead of “I want to get better at playing the guitar”, try to say “I want to be able to play the C Sharp chord better”.
  • Max Effort: when you commit to practicing, you should try the hardest since, if done properly, you are constantly being challenged, and only by trying your best can you master the difficult content.
  • Constant Immediate Feedback: this is the key to purposeful and mindful practice because it prevents mistakes from compounding and allows you to readjust yourself to perform better.
  • Full Attention: this is especially important when you are practicing solo since you need to constantly provide yourself with immediate feedback

4. Life as Deliberate Practice

This is a very interesting concept that the author introduces by the end of the book, but I also think it is one of the most important lessons ever. Instead of going about your daily life mindlessly, you can treat everything you do in your life as a form of deliberate practice. For example, when you are washing dishes, and since you already have a clear mental representation of how a clean dish should look like, you can pay attention to how much force, dish soap you apply to get the cleanest plates, and constantly readjust yourself if the result optimal. This may just be a silly example, but you can apply the same deliberate practice techniques in your work and in your hobbies. By living your life purposefully and mindfully, you will become a radically more efficient and effective person.