Practice. Practice. Practice

Practice. There is no other way in Maths. 
The Mathematics teacher told repeatedly told to us during the course of final two years of high school. The importance of practice was again highlighted by Malcolm Gladwell in his book titled Outliers. While in high school, I and my friends were fascinated not by what our teacher was telling us but how he was pronouncing Maths. The t didn't sound like the letter s or the letter x but as a hybrid of these two letters. The sound was funny. As for Malcolm Gladwell and his book, he is good at pointing out a concept, tirelessly writing on it without offering a way to master it.

Now, I am reading "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle. Like many of us who are trying to acquire talent, the author is also intrigued and hence on a quest to decipher the mystery. In his search for the answer, Daniel Coyle encounters myelin. In simple words, myelin insulates nerves and helps them fire quickly thereby sending messages to the brain faster. The only way to shape myelin is not through the genetic lottery but practice. Ironically, my Maths teacher had recommended the same decades ago. How does the practice help? Repetition helps in recalling what you are learning with minimal effort. Take a look at what Abraham Lincoln has to tell us about learning.
I am slow to learn and slow to forget what I have learned. My mind is like a piece of steel, very hard to scratch anything on it and almost impossible after you get it there to rub it out.
According to Daniel Coyle as mentioned in the book "The Talent Code", practice makes our nerves to fire on all cylinders. This ability is also called reflex. The less you practice, the more error-prone you are. If you check out any self-help book, you will find advices on acting out imaginary scenarios. What is this if not practice? Aren't you practicing when you map out all possible scenarios either in a piece of paper or a dark corner of your mind before you step into that critical meeting? The author illustrates the importance of learning by quoting the words of the famous pianist, Vladimir Horowitz.
If I skip practice of one day, I notice. If I skip practice for two days, my wife notices. If I skip for three days, the world notices.
If the repetitive practice help us to perfect a skill, are we really on the right track? Are we turning into parrots? Daniel Coyle explains this using a term called bitter-sweet spot. After entering this spot, we commit mistakes, evaluate the steps that led us to mistake and then retrace to begin again. If you analyze this further, what happens here? We identify what led us to the error. If we have identified it, doesn't it became easier to avoid it? There is a better option. We can falter without falling over to create something even better. We are pushing the limits. By doing all the above, we are also learning the technique to accomplish a task. As Daniel Coyle points out in the book, the importance of technique is explained by the coach of Spartak Tennis Club Moscow, Larisa Preobrazhenskaya.
Technique is everything. If you begin playing without technique, it is big mistake. Big, big mistake!
Now, are you ready to practice?

Tags: Musings, Practice


  1. Very Nicely written... Gives good motivation Nona


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