Fascinating critique of Ericsson and deliberate practice (h/t Bokhove). Analysing music and chess, they find that deliberate practice explains some, but far from all of the variation in expert performance.
For example, deliberate practice explains 34% of variation in chess, leaving 66% unexplained:
Likewise, it explains 30% variation in music
This is not to say deliberate practice is ‘wrong’ – it makes a big difference, but it leaves an even bigger difference still unexplained and perhaps attributable to starting age, working memory, IQ or genes.
Popular claims by Gladwell and Syed, like 10,000 hours and it’s all about practice and nothing else, are not true.
Ultimately, deliberate practice is still the most powerful way we know to improve our performance: but we will not become superpeople in a particular field automatically.
See also this New Yorker piece from Maria Konnikova, summarising these arguments.