Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

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Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Florence Holmes
Reviewed by Florence Holmes
Summary: An exploration of the training which enable extraordinary feats
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 307 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Vintage Popular Science
ISBN: 978-0099598473

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Most of us have had the experience of watching a game at Wimbledon, or hearing a concert pianist, or reading about a new world record for the youngest chess Grandmaster, and daydreamed about ourselves in that position. Except, we invariably tell ourselves, that isn't possible because we were always beaten in school tennis matches, we didn't start piano lessons until we were twelve, and we were never pushed by our parents to play chess. Peak is a supremely optimistic – which is not to say unscientific – ode to practise, and the idea that with the right amount and right sort of practise, almost anyone can achieve almost anything.

The book is centered around the concept of 'deliberate practise', which is the opposite of mindlessly playing the same piece of music with the same mistakes again and again and considering practise accomplished. Ericsson and Pool use countless examples to demonstrate that it is this, and not 'innate talent', a 'gift' or IQ which create experts in a particular field. They also dispel the myth of the 'ten thousand hour rule' as they reveal 10,00 hours to be arbitrary and the quality of practise to have just as much, if not more importance than the quantity.

Stories hold Peak together and are extremely wide ranging, starting with a college student Ericsson trained to remember strings of numbers, and covering musicians, athletes, chess and Scrabble players, and even children doing spelling bees. Readers will be able to closely relate to at least one of the case studies. However, those reading the book in order to better understand how they can improve in a particular discipline may find themselves feeling dissatisfied. For one thing, the stories can be somewhat laboured; the authors seem so keen to convince us of their points that they make the point, and then repeat it.

Secondly, the entire book is written in prose, and for readers who want to apply its lessons practically, some bullet pointed sections at the ends of chapters or even the end of the book, would undoubtedly be helpful. However, I suspect that Ericsson and Pool intentionally avoided concise 'how to' sections or skimmable to do lists in the belief that that this would contradict their principles.

In reality, most of us don't have the desire or commitment to become a world ranking high jumper. However, Peak could have a large impact in much more prosaic ways as it rewrites ingrained ideas about talent, capability and achievement. It has the potential to change the way we think about our potential in our careers and our hobbies, to open doors which we assumed were closed to us, and to push ourselves to achieve more than we thought possible. It's not necessary to want to reach the peak to read this book, simply to climb a little further up the mountain.

Further reading suggestions: Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg, How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim

Buy Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool at Amazon.com.


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