Lessons in Learning from Professor Anders Ericsson

Dedicated to Professor Anders Ericsson

Source: Florida State University News¹

Lesson 1: Forget about talent. Focus on the work.

You may think, “I don’t have any talent.” I guarantee you: I had no talent. None. I didn’t know how — I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t act. I didn’t know how to think up jokes, or tell jokes, or do anything. I just started doing it because I — I liked it…so don’t be intimidated starting with nothing. In fact, if you start with nothing, the workaround can lead you to originality.³

I felt that I was not a genius at all, that I wanted to write good books — I had to work. And Flaubert was a great inspiration because he was a writer that had built his talent, his genius, through very, very hard work, through a very deep commitment with his vocation, with what he wanted to achieve.⁵

Lesson 2: The only practice that counts is deliberate practice.

Lesson 3: Studying over doing.

I transcribed every word, note, and chord of Don McLean’s “Vincent” by ear.⁸ It took me 14 days (and six pages) of deliberate study to do this. It would’ve taken me less than 14 minutes to play “Vincent” a few times. But now, every lyrical and musical nuance of this song is in me, forever. Studying over doing!

Lesson 4: Mental representations over memorization.

My advice might sound a little unfun, but it’s that, everything you learn, learn the thing that is the building block for the thing you just learned. And that might be scales, you know, instead of just parts of songs. Trace back why you like the thing and learn the thing that made the thing you like, and you will be five times better every time you do that.¹⁰

Lesson 5: The “10,000-Hour Rule” is not a thing.

1,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice Is Better than 10,000 Hours of Haphazard Practice.


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