Deliberate Practice: A Case Study

February 26, 2019

Deliberate practice describes a specific type of practice that is both systematic and purposeful, requiring focused attention and feedback, designed to improve performance. The concept was popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. To give you a better idea of what it looks like, we highly recommend a recent National Geographic article about Alex Honnold. Honnold completed a free solo (no ropes!) climb of the El Capitan face in Yosemite National Park. I assumed it was a crazy, reckless stunt by a thrill-seeker. But in fact, this was a wonderful demonstration of deliberate practice at work:

Over a year, Alex spent hundreds of hours on Freerider, attached to ropes, working out a precisely rehearsed choreography for each section, memorizing thousands of intricate hand and foot sequences. Afterward he’d retreat to “the box,” a RAM ProMaster van. (Vans have served as his mobile base camp and home, off and on, for the past 12 years.) There he would record each day’s training details in spiralbound notebooks.

While our risk tolerance is dramatically lower than Honnolds, we share a burning desire for self-improvement. Personal investment journals and structured feedback are two examples of how we use deliberate practice to hone our investment process at Ewing Morris.

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