Practice Makes Perfect - Not


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Every interview with Tiger Woods ends with the remark he practices from sunrise to sunset to perfect his enormous talent and by inference (fellow-duffers) you should feel guilty for not hitting more balls.

It aint necessarily so. In fact practice to perfect your motor skills by putting a golf ball, standing on the foul line and shooting baskets or pitching baseballs to perfect your talent is less than half (48%) of the game.

Stanford University research published in Neuron on December 21 2006 says Practice Makes Perfect is an urban myth while Nobody’s Perfect is a law to live by.

Picture this, you are a cave dweller ten thousand years ago making your living from hunting with a spear. The question running through your mind every time you organized for a hunt was how am I going to trap and kill my prey this time?

Humans were the ace predator because they could think and organize even before they had language. Get this – they were never successful in bringing home the bacon by duplicating the same exact hunting strategy time-after-time. Our ancient ancestors survived and thrived though often slower and weaker than their prey because of cooperation and their use of imagination to improvise.


Professor Krishna Shenoy of Stanford examined human sensorimotor networks and concluded it consists of two-elements: our pre-motor cortex which is responsible for planning (strategies) and motor-movements for muscle behaviors.

Bite-the-bullet, homo sapiens are not machines nor robots and repetitive acts are boring and have limited value. Repetition is not our secret of winning, organizing and planning a good strategy is. Each time we do an activity even one we have accomplished two thousand times, our brain approaches it as 52% brand-new.

Please remember this: we are not wired for consistency nor programmed like a computer for perfect replication of what we have done before. We are wired for learning, analyzing and planning. Each hunt presents novelty situations. Success is not in our muscle alone (48%), but in our improvising-skills seeing what is different this time and adjusting for the difference.

Why Flexibility Trumps Consistency

Go back to our hunting cave dwelling ancestors ten thousand years ago. Our brain was developing structure and functions for survival and self-preservation. What were the odds of success on a hunt?

The prey was much faster, fighting for their lives and armed with powerful muscles to claw and maim the hunter. The predator (us) was hungry but the prey was motivated to live to see another day.

We estimate up to 50% of the hunts came back empty. The hunter required an arsenal of skills and strategies not a mechanical approach to making the kill. Our own survival depended on how shrewd we were to discover and corner the prey before we could get a spear thrown.

Today our brain is programmed for shrewd analysis, planning and not machine-like consistency. How come? Circumstances and conditions are more often different than identical and we require novel solutions to prevail.

Get this: our central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system have never been designed from the beginning for repetitive-acts. We are a learning entity and that is the secret of our success. We are often faced with new stuff or a twist on old activities and flexibility is the required skill.

Human nature (genetics) according to Dr. Paul MacLean and his Triune brain consists of our Reptilian Complex (ancient instinctive) brain, our Limbic System (emotional) brain and finally our Neocortex (new thinking brain). Each time we plan to act all three brains interact and communicate. Our ultimate behavior is a result of our instincts, feelings and organized thinking.

Mental Visualization and StressBusting

Repetition is not the secret, flexibility is. Improvising new approaches for success at the ancient hunt and in your modern career can be vastly improved by the use of creative imagination. Our mirror neurons permits us to practice mentally and even by seeing others using successful strategies. This applies to recreational sports as well as making presentations, acing interviews and learning and memory.

Many scientists believe Chronic Stress is the forerunner to heart disease, cancer and stroke. When our psychological defenses are disabled by stress the first thing that goes is our immune system. Learning to create an altered state of consciousness from 16 hours of Beta cycles per second where chronic stress can invade, to Alpha brainwaves (Hertz) is a valuable and powerful human strategy to survive and thrive in our Knowledge Economy.


Learning to mentally visualize for new creative behaviors and StressBusting to change our attitude, state-of-mind and feelings are systems taught in speed learning.

Would your life and career be enlightened and expanded by reading-and-remembering three books, articles and reports in the time your peers can hardly finish one? Consider it a competitive-advantage, one to maintain you in the fast-lane.

Check it out.

See ya,

copyright © 2006 H. Bernard Wechsler

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals published by Barron's; partner of Evelyn Wood creator of speed reading, graduating 2 million including the White House staffs of four U. S. Presidents.

Interviewed for major articles in the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine.


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