Achieving at the Highest Level

The phrase GOAT is often used today to describe someone who has achieved at the highest possible level; hence the label: Greatest of All Time. What leads to that level of achievement? For most of the history of the Earth, high achievement was thought to be inborn, or a product of socio-economic status. Very few people continue to believe that.

Researchers now associate extraordinary high achievement with a phrase called deliberative practice. At its essence, deliberate performance involves:

  • Breaking down a skill into chunks of expertise.
  • Practicing these chunks continuously
  • Having feedback (coaching) on the improvement of the skill chunks
  • Continually raising the bar on the expertise level being pursued.

While there are differences of opinion about various parameters of deliberate practice, there is a general agreement that high achievers must have the desire to reach that level through sustained effort. There is no shortcut to high achievement status. In fact, becoming a high achiever is a great equalizer since a “head start” doesn’t give one much of an advantage.

There is also general agreement that short bursts of practice will rarely lead to high achievement levels. Some researchers believe that it takes 10 years of sustained practice activity to become a high achiever. The key to time spent with deliberate practice is not the time itself, but the way that practice provides feedback for improvement.

Why are there so few people who achieve at the highest levels of performance? Motivation is the simplest answer. Practice can be tough and the rewards may be minimal. What drives a high achiever to continue to improve when there are few rewards for doing so? That’s a question that remains unanswered, but it seems certain that high achievers are driven but an internal sense of who they want to be rather than some form of external recognition.

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“Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback.” – Malcolm Gladwell (Author)

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