Everyone is a critic

With activities people perceive to be easy, they rate themselves as being above average. 90% of motorists consider themselves above average drivers. 94% of college professors consider themselves to be better than average teachers.

With some fields, everyone is a critic because they seem easier to us than they actually are. Examples here include writing, stand-up comedy or sports commentary. In all these fields, a mistake seems obvious. A poor joke on stage makes us feel like we could have done better. A cliche used by the commentator simply stands out. We all write regularly, have cracked a good joke at some point or used made clinical observations about a game of football. All these acts give us an illusion about how easy those activities are.

And yet, when we try our hand at doing any one of them without sufficient practice, our illusions come collapsing down. All those things are much harder than we perceive them to be.

The key to mastery in any field is deliberate practice. This is to practice a skill at the outer edge of our current abilities, so that it feels uncomfortable. When we breeze through an activity, we aren’t in the zone of deliberate practice. More importantly, we aren’t really upgrading our current capabilities. Despite hours of practice with talking to other people, when we make a speech in public, our stomachs tie up into knots.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, deliberate practice does. The reason we aren’t as good as we are with things we perceive to be “easy” is because our practice in those domains hasn’t been deliberate. This implies a couple of things. The first is to lean into discomfort when we are learning a new skill rather than away from it. The second is to be more generous to the professionals practicing deliberately on stage, rather than pepper them with our enlightened remarks.

Source for statistics: Stumbling on Happiness – Dan Gilbert

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