Monday, February 16, 2009

Various Insights Into Becoming Expert at Anything

Mark Bahti, author of "A Guide to Navajo Sandpaintings"

"My father saw my interest, and thus began my formal instruction in traditional sandpainting under his patient tutelage. At first my tasks were menial: grinding the rocks of various colors, keeping the workshop clean, and preparing the boards for the paintings he did. Like most apprentices, I found the work tedious, but I quickly learned that they are a very necessary part of the whole procedure and would result in a beautiful creation. All forms of art demand discipline if pride in good craftsmanship is to be developed, and sandpainting is no exception."

"Of course, physical labor was only one element in my instructions. I would carefully listen to my father's spiritual instruction, which was the most essential element. He instilled in me the feelings of reverence, pride, and beauty in the traditional sandpaintings. I worked under his guidance for twelve years. As I became older, I sought out others, particularly artists who were willing to share their ideas and knowledge in order to enrich my training. "

Malcolm Gladwell, author of "Outliers" describing how the hundreds of hours performing in Hamburg helped create the Beatles:

"Here is John Lennon, in an interview after the Beatles disbanded, talking about the band's performances at a Hamburg strip club called the Indra:

We got better and got more confidence. We couldn't help it with all the experience playing all night long. It was handy them being foreign. We had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over.
In Liverpool, we'd only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing."
"The Beatles ended up traveling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. ... All told, they performed for 270 nights (five hours or more per night) in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. ... Most bands today don't perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers."
"They were no good onstage when they went there and they were very good when thy came back. They learned not only stamina. They had to learn an enormous amount of numbers - cover versions of everything you can think of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too. They weren't disciplined onstage at all before that. But when they came back, they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them."
Josh Waitzkin, author of "The Art of Learning" and child chess prodigy (Searching for Bobby Fischer):
“I mentioned that Bruce (teacher/mentor) and I studied the endgame while other young players focused on the opening. … Bruce began our study with a barren chessboard. We took on positions of reduced complexity and clear principles. Our first focus was king and pawn against king – just three pieces on the table. Over time, I gained an excellent intuitive feel for the power of the king and the subtlety of the pawn. … Layer by layer we built up my knowledge and my understanding of how to transform axioms into fuel for creative insight. Then we turned to rook endings, bishop endings, knight endings, spending hundreds of hours as I turned seven and eight years old, exploring the operating principles behind positions that I might never see again. This method of study gave me a feeling for the beautiful subtleties of each chess piece, because in relatively clear-cut positions I could focus on what was essential. I was also gradually internalizing a marvelous methodology of learning – the play between knowledge, intuition, and creativity. From both educational and technical perspectives, I learned from the foundation up.”

“While the weaker player might say, “I just had a feeling,” the stronger player would shrug and explain the principles behind the inspired move. This is why Grandmasters can play speed chess games that weaker masters wouldn’t understand in hundreds of hours of study: they have internalized such esoteric patterns and principles that breathtakingly precise decisions are made intuitively.”

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