The Beatles, and mastery through deliberate practice

This Week: Deliberate practice, the clash between capitalism and democracy, inside the mind of a digital native, the personal data ecosystem, and more

Founding Fuel

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Dear friend,

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, narrated the story of rock band The Beatles and their early days. He told us about the countless hours of practice—at least 10,000 hours together as a band—before they came to the US and became famous. A large part of the practice was playing at seedy clubs in Hamburg, Germany, that were not known for their audiences or the money they paid.  John Lennon talks about this experience (paraphrased) “we got better and got more confidence. We were playing eight straight hours a day, but in Liverpool (England) we could play only for an hour. We had to find a new way of playing”.

This 10,000 hour rule is a good thumb rule for building expertise in any area or subject, Gladwell concluded. This inspired people to look at the number of hours spent in practice to hone a skill. A few years later, the original researcher of this topic, Prof. Anders Ericsson, said that an important piece of information was left out of the 10K hour rule. He said the practice should be “deliberate and purposeful” and not just practice. By deliberate, he explained that there has to be time spent on setting specific goals, is focused, seeks feedback and makes one get out of one’s comfort zone. Broadly, deliberate and purposeful practice provides a more accurate path to mastery. In his book Peak Ericsson explains the basics behind this idea and provides simple principles of deliberate practice in everyday life and on the job. A noteworthy example is of Benjamin Franklin’s effort to improve his writing skills. Definitely worth a read.

In this context of deliberate practice, the most cited examples are of musicians and sports persons, where there is generally a stable external environment.  Does this idea apply to entrepreneurship, where the environment is much more dynamic and less stable? While deliberate practice provides the basis for individual skill building, in less stable environments, practicing deliberate experiments perhaps provides a higher degree of success. Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Netflix, Google, etc. have a culture of deliberate experimentation that have helped them immensely on their way to global dominance. 

So, to the learnings of 2018. Can you recollect how many hours of deliberate practice you put in to hone your skills? How many deliberate experiments did you do as an individual and as a leader in your organisation? Answers to these questions can help you be better prepared for 2019.

This is a light week but we are never light on the quality of content :-). Arun Maira presents a brilliant argument on the clash between capitalism and democracy and the tension that presents itself across the world today. We would like to remind you of two year end compilations: D Shivakumar’s top 10 books of 2018 and our collection of the best stories of 2018.

The entire team at Founding Fuel joins me in wishing you and your families a very happy new year 2019.

CS Swaminathan

On behalf of Team Founding Fuel

Featured Story

Capitalism vs democracy: Consumers vs citizens

[Yellow Vest protestors in France. Photo by Guilhem VellutCC BY 2.0]

Beneath the economic and political rumbles around the world lies a deeper conflict between these sets of ideas. (By Arun Maira. Read Time: 5 min)

What We Are Reading

Ants : Ant Colonies :: Neuron : Brain

Aeon | An ant colony has memories that its individual members don’t have.

The Personal Data Ecosystem

Visual Capitalist | The multi-billion dollar industry that makes its living from your data.

Meet Alexa: Inside the Mind of a Digital Native

1843 | She is 24 and Instagram is her life, even though she sometimes wishes it wasn’t. But what happens when she meets a guy who doesn’t feel the same way about social media?

I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon

The Atlantic | There’s a certain novelty, after decades at a legacy media company, in playing for the team that’s winning big.

For the First Time in More than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain

Smithsonian Magazine | A beloved Robert Frost poem is among the many creations that are (finally) losing their protections in 2019.

Year End Special

Top 10 business books of 2018

D Shivakumar | Books about the evolution of India's billionaires, understanding data, shared values, the economy, organisational culture, the risks and rewards of technology, and the rise of strongmen.

The best of 2018

Walmart vs Amazon, how large firms and start-ups can partner for innovation, societal platforms, startups and the ease of doing business, dreamers vs entrepreneurs, the trouble with B-Schools, grand challenges, and the purpose of enterprise.

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