Practice Doesn't Make Perfect - Jesse Bridgewater


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Malcolm Gladwell researched and popularized the notion that you need 10,000 hours to master a subject. It is really easy to blow through those 10,000 hours without much greatness to show for it. There are a few really simple things you can do to make your hours of practice count. This talk touches on some theory, gives some examples, and makes some connections between practicing well, quantified-self and multi-armed bandit machine learning.

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Practice Doesn't Make Perfect - Jesse Bridgewater

  1. 1. Practice doesn’t makes perfect … because we are doing it wrong Jesse Bridgewater @drbridgewater
  2. 2. Malcolm Gladwell did a great job of popularizing the research on deliberate practice in his book Outliers. Benjamin Bloom: Researched 120 elite musicians, mathematicians, doctors, chess players. ● IQ, etc not predictive ● Practice quantity and quality with coaching Anders Ericsson from FSU is a key researcher in this area: ● Reproducible lab methods to quantify expertise ● 10,000 hours of deliberate / mindful practice ● Hard to beat 10 years (maybe Bobby Fischer)
  3. 3. A few ways to practice badly There are billions of ways to practice badly. A full treatment of this topic is beyond the scope of this presentation. • Practice, practice, practice • Build on your strengths • Do what you love
  4. 4. Practice again and again and again
  5. 5. Practice the same thing repeatedly • So boring • Willpower is not infinite: you are on a budget, so spend wisely • Hard to learn if you are not thinking
  6. 6. Build on your strengths
  7. 7. You will not become great by playing to your strengths • It is conventional wisdom to focus your development effort on existing strengths. • It is really fun to build on your strengths • A great violin solo is only as great at its biggest mistake
  8. 8. Practice your favorite part “Man, I love this part!!!”
  9. 9. Love will not find a way • You will not get great ONLY focusing on what your love. • In any task there will be things you like more than others • The parts you do not like have to be just as great as the parts that you love
  10. 10. A few personal examples • Music – OKRA – Jazz Band • Programming – Undergrad – Grad school • Management: Performance Feedback
  11. 11. My band Okra didn’t make it ● Fun playing with your best friends ●Met girls (increased wooing odds) ●Played for hundreds of people ●Took poser album cover pictures ●Played favorite songs over and over ●Played the songs we were all good at ●Threw away the bad recordings
  12. 12. ●Worked really hard ●Met zero girls ●Played mistakes over and over ●Played songs needing the most work ●Optimized for excellence ●Recorded every practice and listened to the worst parts ●Won city and state competitions
  13. 13. Programming in Undergrad • Did some programming for physics and math classes, but just enough to be dangerous • Took some CS classes • It was fun, exciting (vacation from Physics) – Like vacation reading it was fun • Lots of trial and error without mastery • Tortured the code until it confessed
  14. 14. Programming in Grad School • Had fun building something new but this was no vacation • Core to my academic success • Trial and error with the purpose of reducing future errors and learning • Less fun but more focused on getting better
  15. 15. Example: Managing Performance Plan Set Context / Expectations Role Impact / Importance What’s Going Well Leveraging Strengths What’s Not Going Well Discuss, Get Feedback Start, Stop, Continue Reiterate Expectations Motivate / Call to action TIME (I have been at this a while and have iterated many times) Plan Role Impact / Importance What’s Going Well What’s Not Going Well Discuss, Get Feedback Motivate / Call to action Plan Role Impact / Importance What’s Going Well What’s Not Going Well Motivate / Call to action Giving useful feedback to people on your team Motivate Give Feedback Provide Context Be Consistent Be Honest About Problems (while motivating)
  16. 16. Some things that work for me • Think. Be mindful. • Record and replay – Music, speaking, teaching, etc • Make it into a performance – Explain, teach, publish • Focus on mistakes – Know how and why it happened • Prob(mistake) == Prob(practice) • Evolve actively…don’t just repeat
  17. 17. Becoming Great is Really Hard • Always focus on something you can’t yet do • The limit is willpower not talent • Probably cannot do more than 2-4 hours a day • Match practice time to probability of mistake • The goal is increased performance, not enjoyment • The pleasure of doing something you just mastered is what NOT PRACTICING feels like
  18. 18. Thank You!! Read These Instead of Outliers Anders Ericsson Andrew Ng: Stanford, Google Brain, Coursera, Baidu better-in-30-minutes