But, I find his analysis a little suspect. It appears to confuse corellation and causation. It notices a difference in behavior between the "great" and the "average" and assumes those differences to cause the difference in ability.
It completely ignores the possibility that the behavioral difference might be caused by a difference in ability, rather than the behavior changing the ability.
Also, another problem is that student classification is based on faculty opinion. The fact that students with a class of behavior tend to be liked more by their instructors implies something about the instructors, not the students. It does not measure music ability. It measures the ability to be perceived positively by music professors.
I would be interested to see a study that actually measures music ability, using set learning time frames with unfamiliar pieces and double blind assessment of music samples.
If that was correlated with behavior, then it might mean something.
The best the study can say is "if you want music teachers in Berlin to rate you highly, then behave this way".
Exactly why I clicked the comment link. The differences in behavior could also be caused by a difference in psychology between students. e.g. the elite group love what they do and the other group don't. Which could indicate why the other group spread their practice throughout the day - because they're procrastinating all day long.
I love what I do (my hobby - swing dancing). I do it for 3-5 hours a day (after work). I would improve much faster if I danced less, spent most of the time doing hard work (cleaning my moves, learning more moves, more cardio, ...) and rested more.
Right now I'm always on a tired state, and improving quite well, but finding myself lacking in a lot of ways. When I take a break my improvement is greatly enhanced.
What it may come down to is simply strength of self-discipline. What separates the achievers from the middle-of-the-roaders is self-control. The classic "marshmallow experiment" would seem to bear this out.
A famous longitudinal, social-psychology experiment in which children were offered a marshmallow (or a cookie, depending on which study), and told that if they didn't eat it, they could receive a second marshmallow in five minutes. Then they were left alone for five minutes. Most children ate the marshmallow. The ones who didn't -- who waited it out and resisted temptation -- were also the ones who grew up to be more successful, earn higher incomes, and perform higher on tests of intelligence.
And this is exactly what they should have done. Take two groups of average players, and tell one of them to change their training style to that of the top players, and then after half a year or a year, check if their scoring improved, relative to that of the control group.
This is not strictly true. The elite group were taken from students who were violin performance majors. The non-elite group were taken from students who were education majors but played the violin.
There may be bias from teachers built in, but there's the added component of their assessment of their own abilities as well.
I would hope that those excelling as violin performance majors would actually be better performers than education majors that the instructors thought were poor players, bias or no bias.
For Cal's readers, this article isn't presenting a new argument. It's one more example in a long line supporting his overall thesis.
That would measure "subjective music ability".
However, it's important to note that this doesn't extrapolate to the general world. A lot of jobs simply involve doing a lot of stuff. Efficient study of storage technologies might make you an elite expert, but it won't make you the founder of DropBox. That takes a lot of "hard to do" work, and you most definitely will be busy. Most jobs are closer to this than they are to the violinist in a university.
Certainly, being focused can be a good thing, and can definitely mean you get more done in the same amount of time. Most of the truly successful people I know, though, are both focused and busy. If you work twice as fast as the average person, but also spend only half the time, them you aren't more productive.
Success is hard to do work. But that is something completely different than studying.
With this article you also have to note the estimated number of hours the best violinists and good violinists spent performing. By the age of 20, the best had accumulated 7,410 hours of practice, the good violinists had accumulated 5,301 hours, and the teachers had accumulated 3,420 hours. The best and the good violinists can practice the same amount, but if you are 2,000 hours of deliberate practice behind, it will be really hard to catch up.
If you are interested in expert human performance, I would read this article, the Talent Code, and Talent is Overrated. Every time I hear Gary V say that he is successful because of his DNA, I think of this article because it is the 10,000 hours he spent running a lemonade stand, selling baseball cards, working in a wine store, and deliberately reading wine spectator that made him an expert.
Most days I can't bring myself to do real, boring, challenging-but-in-a-sucky-way work. Then I'll realize I'm weeks behind and I'll hammer out everything I need to do in a couple of days. I had a twelve-week internship over the summer, and when it was almost over and I still wanted to get things done, I spent about sixteen hours a day in my office for a week. The reviews of the end result were fantastic.
I am somewhat under the impression that there are some people in the world who are great organizers, who have some record of everything they've committed to and planned for, and that I will never be one of those people.
What is needed here IMO is somewhat opposite of self-discipline.
You don't make something important or interesting by thinking that it's important. It must naturally be important for you, you need to be intrinsically interested in this. That state of affairs we normally don't verbalise or contemplate on.
I doubt that you can come to that with self-discipline. It must be something else. You need to trick yourself.
Possible ways might be introducing some short-term psychological reward, or—better—learning to enjoy the process. My opinion is that some high-achieving people might actually use some psychological tricks like these without knowing about it.
In the light of the article: those kids must at least get the organization and scheduling part of their lives from their parents.
Working hard is admirable; but, when you don't have the capacity to do so, you have to build that capacity first.
The bad part is that it's technically correct. The good part is that once you know it, you have the advantage. Things stop being divided into things that have a point and those that don't. Hence your life stops being full of unimportant things, as ultimately they're all equally significant (or insignificant).
After that, my thinking usually goes the following order: 1) Why do anything at all in such circumstances, life has no point, etc. 2) Wait, I still might as well enjoy the process.
For some reason, the latter normally looks superior (if I'm in good shape), so I'm trying to learn to enjoy the process. Turns out it's not as simple as doing what is pleasant. For me, it's pleasant to drink beer and eat junk food, but it hurts the enjoyment part in the long run. The trick is more about ‘loving what you do’. I'm not really there yet.
I'm a dropout. I guess if I had come to above reasoning back then, I would probably finish.
However, just because there is always something to do doesn't necessarily mean it is smart to be doing it. Are the farmers who are always working on something better off for it? I unfortunately do not have sufficient data, but I wonder if working less could actually lead to increased profitability? Based on my anecdotal experience of observing neighbours, I think there could very well be some truth to it.
It sounds like you've got a hobby farm. I could be way off kilter, but if that's the case, perhaps you're not as financially dependent on every crop, and can afford increasing the risk of disaster? I freely admit to not having any direct on-farm experience for 20+ years, so it's fair to say I'm a bit distanced from the devil in the details now.
What you say is the worst excuse I have heard in a long time, and betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of human psychology.
It's easy to read the evidence -- put in more effective practice/studying, and your rates of success and capabilities will be higher than any marathon/cramming will ever do for you.
A fine sentiment, until its applied to the general world. And in the real world, there is plenty of hard-to-do work that needs to be handled. I guess all my hard-to-do work that I'm responsible for as an employee, friend, father, volunteer, etc. is simply a "busyness" choice that's preventing me from reaching the stars in some focused endeavor.
It's completely anecdotal, but I know several people who follow the focused-drive-limited-busyness approach. I find two common traits about them: 1) they are highly competent in their chosen field, and 2) they are stunningly boring.
The world needs experts, but life needs well-rounded people. I respect the experts, but I much prefer the well-rounded folks.
I also resent the inherent bias in labelling someone with the ambition of becoming a teacher of the arts as average based on this ambition alone. As earlier HN posts have informed us, in Finland it is the top 10% students of a class that go on to become teachers.
I believe that someone being busy working on social interactions (of any type, real or virtual) generates great outcomes both personally and collectively. I don't believe in meditation, reclusion, cocooning anymore. A complex world requires sophisticated groups of talented people working together to solve problems. The busy they are, the better.
Maybe this slides off the topic. But I just wanted to express my view from a different angle.
Charles Barkley (well-known NBA future Hall of Famer) was well known for being a slacker at practice. He hated it.
Randy Moss (well-known NFL future Hall of Famer) was also one of the laziest players, poor team player, and hated practice.
Mark Spitz (7-time gold medal winning swimmer) apparently was particularly uninterested in practice, put in the bare minimum yet reaped huge rewards.
dont do too much training all day long but rather do effective short period intensive trainings couple of times a day
In other words, how is that different from 80/20 principle? Looks like the research is just another confirmation of it.
http://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time/ar/1 (paywalled, unfortunately)
Schwartz and Loehr worked with some of the best tennis players of all time. From there they built a system of how to build up your energy (energy is the term they use.) Some might find their work to be a bit hokey, but I got the book used for $.01 (+ s&H) on Amazon so it's worth a shot.
The deliberative practice literature is pretty consistent on what people do to become better performers. What much of the literature (or at least what I have read) lacks is the recognition that getting to the point of being able to practice deliberately in a consistent manner takes building up endurance over time.
I love articles like this. It's just so hard to put the results into practice. I'm a programmer. I admit I focus on improving skills that are in my comfort zone most of the time. It has served me well and I see a lot of improvement in my work. I also spend some time working on things I'm not familiar with or not comfortable with but far less time that that which I already have at least a decent grasp of. I tend to improve by getting a passing knowledge of something new and building on it slowly by dissecting examples. Maybe I should spend more time on the skills I don't yet have a firm grasp of rather than perfecting my current skill set?
Interesting read for sure.