Working smart

I’ve been reading two books on individual performance lately, one on working hard (The Upside of Stress) and one on working smart (Peak). I finished the latter last weekend, here’s a short review.

There are conflicting views on what makes someone succeed. Talent? Hard work? Smart work? The book completely debunk the importance of talent - and puts forward a lot of evidence to support this claim. Every “natural talent” out there put in tons of hours to get to the point where people believed they had special abilities.

Further, the authors argue that you have to work both hard and smart if you want to do something remarkable. 10 000 hours can make you good, but it’s only 10 000 hours of deliberate practice that make you great.

The concept of deliberate practice was first introduced to me in the book Grit - which overlaps a lot with Peak. But where Grit mostly focuses on effort and not giving up, Peak is all about the importance of deliberate practice. Translated: if you really want to excel at something, it’s not enough to just show up. When you show up, you also have to spend your time wisely.

Deliberate practice means having something measurable to work towards. This could be anything from a 400 metres lap-time to a certain number of chess moves. Without something to measure your performance up against, you won’t see progress - and then stagnation is just around the corner. The book describes the concept deliberate practice in detail, and strongly argues for its importance. It serves as a good reminder that while showing up is necessary, it’s not sufficient alone.

I really enjoyed the book (listened to it as an audiobook), and it’s one I will recommend to others.