Secrets of a Mind-Gamer

Joshua Foer, in the New York Times, writes about his approach to becoming a memory champion in Secrets of a Mind-Gamer. One point is related to that of expertise:

They’ve found that top achievers typically follow the same general pattern. They develop strategies for keeping out of the autonomous stage by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented and getting immediate feedback on their performance. Amateur musicians, for example, tend to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces. Similarly, the best ice skaters spend more of their practice time trying jumps that they land less often, while lesser skaters work more on jumps they’ve already mastered. In other words, regular practice simply isn’t enough. For all of our griping over our failing memories — the misplaced keys, the forgotten name, the factoid stuck on the tip of the tongue — our biggest failing may be that we forget how rarely we forget. To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail. [Bold mine]

In writing classes, there is often more focusing on abstract concepts than technique, and seldom is feedback immediate. And the goals tend to be general, which makes it difficult to accomplish them in any concrete fashion. I need to think more about this for my own classes.