Practice is the process to mastery. But not all practice is created equal.
Deliberate practice, a term popularized by Cal Newport of Study Hacks, is the process of using uncomfortable, stretching practice to expand your abilities.
It’s easy to pick up the guitar and play the song that you’ve mastered and have been playing for years. It’s easy to cook the dishes that you’ve been cooking since you were twelve.
But in order to improve a skill, practicing must include what is foreign and unfamiliar. That’s exactly what top performers of various practices have in common, that they are always challenging themselves to do the uncomfortable in order to learn and grow.
Learning a new skill will always be uncomfortable and foreign, but improving a skill that you have already learned requires making the decision to challenge yourself beyond what you are already capable of doing.
Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but practice makes permanent. Therefore, what you practice determines what you become comfortable with.