Perfect, It Turns Out, Is What Practice Doesn't Make

July 25, 2014 7:24 PM

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We've long been eager to believe that mastery of a skill is primarily the result of how much effort one has put in. Extensive practice "is probably the most reasonable explanation we have today not only for success in any line, but even for genius," said the ur-behaviorist John B. Watson almost a century ago.

In the 1990s K. Anders Ericsson and a colleague at Florida State University reported data that seemed to confirm this view: What separates the expert from the amateur, a first-rate musician or chess player from a wannabe, isn't talent; it's thousands of hours of work. (Malcolm Gladwell, drawing from...

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