“Uses promptos facit.” — Latin, loosely translated, “Practice makes perfect.”
Earlier last week, I read an article about how a scientific study on practice as it relates to talent, conducted by Dr. Gary McPherson and Dr. James Renwick from the University of New South Wales, Australia, debunked the “10,000-Hour” rule. In summary, the study hypothesizes that talent is something that emerges from practice, but only when certain conditions are met. The most interesting condition to me was the final one in the article:
Strong, Direct, Immediate Feedback. Can you sense when you’re making mistakes and when you’re not? Can you use those mistakes to guide you to better performance?
This is one of the hardest things for me to do relating to practice. It’s very easy for me to gloss over my own mistakes, mostly because I don’t realize when I make them.
One of my most favorite songs ever is John Mayer’s Why Georgia. Say what you want about John Mayer, he is a guitar acrobat, and this song really shows off his unique finger-picking style. In my admiration for this song, I decided I was going to learn it. That was about three years ago, and I still have yet to master it. It’s not for lack of time spent practicing, either. It’s because I don’t recognize my mistakes.
Essentially, I focus on certain things like chord structure and voicing, then overlook others like fingering trouble spots and incorrect rhythm. I want to understand the music, but I stop just short of mastering it.
The funny thing is I can correct this pretty easily. All I have to do is start recording myself, and all of my mistakes magically come into view. Pretty easy fix, right? My next thought is, How does this relate to me growing in the field of web design and programming?
Showing My Work
I have no idea at the end of the day how I’m making mistakes. I’m not sure I have a holistic enough understanding of the field to help me grow the way I want to. I think this may be where mentors and forums like Stack Overflow can come in real handy. Maybe the code version of recording a practice is to just post your code for experts to see.
To be honest, I’m a bit scared to do that. I have a tendency to keep myself happy by keeping everything I do to myself. Of course, that’s not a way to grow by any means.
When I can get up the courage to have others show me where I falter, I can begin to grow to the level I desire.