Two weeks ago I wrote this piece about practicing, specifically about deliberate practice. A couple of reader’s comments got me thinking more about the role of fun in practice.
“The only point I might disagree with is that practice should be “hard” in the sense of being unenjoyable. Lately I’ve been thinking about how when you really love something and get a lot of joy out of it, that is when your mind really fully turns on. I still think practicing should be “hard” in the sense of “challenging”, but I think it is important to enjoy that challenge.” (Matt Roberts)
“I think you’re absolutely right that practice has to be deliberate, or mindful, or whichever word best describes that optimal mix of intention, concentration and persistence. But all these big words do miss one important thing that I think Matt’s comment got at, which is that some portion of it should be just fun.” (James)
Cal Newport of Study Hacks wrote a follow-up piece to his original post about deliberate practice (the blog post that inspired my blog post) introducing a simplified version of dp that he calls freestyle deliberate practice. The gist of it…
- Build an obsession with a clear goal.
- Work backwards from the goal to plan your attack.
- Expend hard focus toward this goal every day.
- Ruthlessly evaluate and modify your approach to remove what doesn’t work and improve what does.
And so I took the opportunity to share with him this discussion about fun in practice.
“I really enjoyed reading your Grandmaster article. Last week, I wrote a blog post about it and it generated some interesting readers comments. A couple of readers commented that the one thing missing from these 6 traits is fun.
Where’s the fun?
I like that the freestyle approach addresses this issue. The “fun” is not the quick dose of instant gratification, but rather the deeper enjoyment that comes from mastering a craft.”
“I appreciate the thoughtful post you wrote. I agree with your response to your readers comments. As far as I can tell, there’s not much “fun” in deliberate practice, but there is an ever-deepening sense of real satisfaction. You can get fun from other sources in your life, but that satisfaction of mastery is hard to find anywhere else.”
So maybe “where’s the fun in deliberate practice” isn’t the right question.
Maybe the right question to ask is this:
What activity/skill is so important to you that you’ll invest the time it takes to become exceptional at it, even when it’s (sometimes) not so fun?
And why do you want to do that?