Innate Ability is Not Enough

Katie Corbett holds the book "Peak, secrets from the new science of expertise"

By Katie Corbett


We grow up hearing we are good at some things and not good at others. We go through our lives and make decisions based on where we think our talents lie. It turns out that innate ability is not as much of a determining factor as you might think.


The book “Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise,” by Robert Pool, says that deliberate practice is more important than raw talent. You might know what you want to work on. You might even know what skills you need to enhance in order to get good and achieve your goal. But how will you put the pedal to the metal and practice? Here are some ideas to practice your desired skills.


  1. Pick a time of day when you are most mentally alert. That will be your practice time. Block it off in your calendar. Let your family and friends know you are not going to be available. Turn off your Internet, power down your cell phone, and eliminate all other distractions.
  2. Decide what you want to master. Making this decision will help you realize exactly when you have achieved your goal.
  3. Pick the skill apart and determine its pieces. This will ensure you do one small part each day that will get you closer to accomplishing your goal.
  4. Practice those pieces until you master them. Even when you’re tired. Even when there are other, more fun things you could be doing. Just practice.
  5. Think of creative ways you can practice even when you are not practicing. Mentally rehearse dance moves while waiting in line, or go over foreign language phrases in your head while sitting at a stop light in traffic.
  6. Stick to a goal of practicing deliberately every day. Just do it!
  7. Tell others about your goal so you will be more likely to follow through. Trust me; it will be embarrassing otherwise.
  8. Set milestones so you can have smaller goals to aim to achieve. This will keep you motivated to reach toward those bigger goals.
  9. Keep track. I’m probably weird, but I love the satisfaction of checking items off on a to-do list.
  10. Celebrate when you hit each accomplishment. This is the most important step, so remember to celebrate every time.


By following this plan, you will get closer to achieving what you want in life. By celebrating your wins, no matter how small, you will recognize your success and progress.


What goals are you working on? Tell me in the comments.


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Practicing Purposefully: Learning the Right Things

Katie Corbett holds the book "Peak, secrets from the new science of expertise"

By Katie Corbett


I was fascinated recently to learn that in language, we use the same 300 words every day. I have wanted to learn a new language for some time, but memorization and verb forms would get in my way of actually learning to speak the language.


I read “Peak: Secrets from The New Science of Expertise,” by Robert Pool, and learn that practicing purposefully could help me master a new language. I decided to check and see what courses are out there to help me excel.


My objective was to learn to speak confidently, so I looked for a course that focused on speaking the desired language. I found Pimsleur courses, which work by listening to MP3 files. These files contain prompts for repetition and responding to questions. I’ve been fascinated by The Philippines, so decided to take Filipino language lessons. These lessons have me spend 30 minutes each weekday learning those 300 words everyone uses in a conversational style. Here is what I’ve found when trying this method:


  • My brain stays focused, since I’m only needing to spend 30 minutes in deliberate practice.
  • I can do the lessons when and where I want, since I’m not part of a class.
  • I remember things more easily because I’m learning in a conversational style.
  • While the program I’m using cannot critique my pronunciation, I’m getting more comfortable with speaking.
  • I’m enjoying the practice, since there are no vocabulary lists or verb conjugations to memorize.


What is something you have wanted to learn? What are the basic building blocks to that skill? What could you do to acquire that skill more quickly than you might have thought possible?


I’d love to hear what you’re learning and how you’re finding success. Let me know in the comments.


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Accomplishing Great Feats: Memorizing Numbers

Katie Corbett holds the book "Peak, secrets from the new science of expertise"

By Katie Corbett


I’m often curious about what it takes to be successful and enjoy reading about successful people. I’m always interested in finding ways to accomplish more and do things better next time.


When I read “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise,” by Robert Pool, I was excited to learn that it is possible to memorize numbers. I encountered the next trick in a course I took about doing mental math, and am including it here.


Basically, each number will stand for a phonetic sound.


1: Stands for the T or D sound.

2: Stands for the N sound.

3: Stands for the M sound.

4: Stands for the R sound.

5: Stands for the L sound.

6: Stands for the CH, SH or J sound.

7: Stands for K or the hard G sound, G as in “gust”.

8: Stands for the F or V sound.

9: Stands for the P or B sound.

0: Stands for the S or Z sound.


By remembering the name “Tony Marloshkovipz” you could easily recall this system; write it out in numbers, taking out the vowels, and you’ll notice everything is, literally, in order. Notice that no vowel sounds are represented. Neither are sounds for H, W or Y. This is because you will be able to insert them where it makes the most sense and create words to help you remember numbers.


I was recently trying to recall the number 124. The letters replacing 1 could be T or D, the letter replacing 2 would be N and the letter replacing 4 would be R. I decided to go with DNR, since that would be easy to remember.


There are whole catalogs of words that can represent 2-digit numbers, giving people the ability to memorize long strings of numbers. The system I explained above could be enough to help you memorize pins, birthdays and phone numbers.


Try plugging in some of your favorite numbers and making words to help you remember them. You never know when this trick could come in handy.


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