Learning

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There are few things which humans can't get any better at. Whether it's running speed, running distance, pounds of weights lifted, amount memorized, musical aptitude, mathematical aptitude, or other abilities -- the best humans are continually setting new records.

Average humans are improving in some areas and declining in others. For example, we see that IQ[1] & our mathematical ability[2] is improving with time. In other areas, like our reading ability[2], we see a decline.

Our capacity to learn & improve is better than it has ever been, so we should take advantage of that.

Deliberate Practice

In order to get better, faster, you need to practice effectively.

The world's experts put a lot of hours into their practice. 10,000 hours of practice is common among experts. It's necessary, but not sufficient, though. Many people practice a lot and fail to get better.

To be an expert, you need to use deliberate practice. This means you are active & engaged, analyzing your practice methods, measuring progress, and setting higher goals.

Here are some examples of how to be deliberate while practicing an instrument like guitar or piano. These tips could be applied to other things:

  1. When reaching a plateau, try something new.
    We get better each time we try something, but this improvement diminishes over time. Cycle through methods to maximize your learning.
  2. Be ridiculously dedicated.
    As you view your own improvement firsthand, it will feel very slow. You need to practice the same thing tens, hundreds, thousands of times. If you stop when it gets hard, or repetitive, you won't improve much. Stay focused and dedicate yourself to improving.
  3. Try to play the passage at full speed.
    Early on, you will miss some notes, but avoid the urge to slow down. This will build a different part of the muscle memory, and sets a higher bar.
  4. Focus on the tough areas.
    Notice which areas are difficult for you. Spend some time slowing things down, keeping your pace steady, and thinking about what you're doing. Think about your left hand and right hand separately and together.
  5. Play the passage at a faster speed, like 1.2x or 1.5x.
    This sets a higher bar you will adapt to.
  6. Get feedback.
    Find a teacher or friend who can evaluate and advise you. We don't always know what or how we can improve. Feedback can come from yourself too, by recording & reviewing your stats or performances over time.
  7. Most importantly: Get sufficient sleep.
    That means 7-9 hours, median 8. We will rapidly play over sequences of notes in our dreams, much faster than our awake brain is able. This accounts for a big chunk of our improvement. If you fail to get 7 hours of sleep, you also will forget much more what you've learned.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect
  9. 2.0 2.1 https://reports.collegeboard.org/pdf/total-group-2016.pdf