“….experts are always made, not born.”

In a July 2007 Harvard Business Review essay titled “The Making of an Expert”, Anders Ericsson, Michael Prietula and Edward Cokely cite research that demonstrates “Consistently and overwhelmingly………that experts are always made, not born.” i find this a liberating message.

Pointing out that “The journey to truly superior performance is neither for the faint of heart nor for the impatient,” the authors observe that “The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts.”

The most significant element in developing expertise, the authors tells us, is “the amount and quality of practice.”

In “The Freedom of Emptiness”, an essay from Mingyur Rinpoche that is characteristically simple and illuminating, we read that after the Prince Siddhartha left home in search of Meaning, “He received instruction in an array of spiritual traditions, from some of the most illustrious philosophers and meditation teachers of the time. A profoundly gifted student, he swiftly completed these various paths, and in some cases, he exceeded the teachers themselves. None of it, however, provided the kind of answers he was longing for.”

He then “arrived at the conclusion that learning about meditation, no matter how sophisticated the education, wasn’t enough — he should really buckle down and focus on actually practicing.”

Indeed, as Karen Armstrong writes in “Buddha”, he later used the term “kusala” with reference to the traits and states that make for “wholesome” living — indicating to his disciples that these are “skills” that one cultivates with practise. What matters is the practise.

Peace Pilgrim gifts us this gem (“Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words”): “The key word for our time is practice. We have all the light we need, we just need to put it into practice.”

Peace 😊

“….practicing is meditation and therapy.”

From the age of 8, Glenn Kurtz, considered a prodigy, learnt to play classical guitar. When he turned twenty five, he realised that he was unlikely to achieve his dream of becoming an acclaimed virtuoso.

He quit playing the guitar, and set out to work as an editorial assistant. After ten years, he came back to the guitar realizing that “Everyone who gives up a serious childhood dream — of becoming an artist, a doctor, an engineer, an athlete — lives the rest of their life with a sense of loss, with nagging what ifs.”

In the book “Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music”, Glenn’s memoir about playing the guitar, he teaches us about learning, and life in general. He writes that “It….takes time to learn. Time, attention, patience, and forgiveness. It takes practice.”

“Practicing”, he tells us “is training; practicing is meditation and therapy.”

In “The Practicing Mind”, Thomas Sterner elaborates on practice, and makes the point that “we become fixated on our intended goal and completely miss out on the joy present in the process of achieving it. We erroneously think that there is a magical point that we will reach and then we will be happy. We look at the process of getting there as almost a necessary nuisance we have to go through in order to get to our goal.”

“However,” Thomas writes, “when you focus your mind on where you want to end up, you are never where you are, and you exhaust your energy with unrelated thoughts instead of putting it into what you are doing.”

Thomas then makes a remarkable point. “In order to focus on the present, we must give up, at least temporarily, our attachment to our desired goal. If we don’t give up our attachment to the goal, we cannot be in the present because we are thinking about something that hasn’t occurred yet: the goal….When you shift your goal from the product you are trying to achieve to the process of achieving it, a wonderful phenomenon occurs: all pressure drops away. This happens because, when your goal is to pay attention to only what you are doing right now, as long as you are doing just that, you are reaching your goal in each and every moment.”

And, “the desired product takes care of itself with fluid ease.”

Glenn Kurtz has this gem: “I gradually understood that I wasn’t practicing to play the guitar, but playing the guitar to learn about practicing.”

Peace 😊