There is a velocity with which we learn. That velocity can vary hugely according to the type of practice we do. I gave an example of it early in the book with a girl named Clarissa who is practicing the clarinet and she plays two songs. In one song, she plays a song, she makes a few mistakes. She goes right past the mistakes. In the next song, she is really tuned in, super tuned in to the sound she’s making and the mistakes she’s making. Whenever she makes a mistake, she stops and she really attends to it. She goes back and repeats really intensively.
The people who did that experiment, the scientists have calculated that her learning velocity skyrockets in those 5 minutes. In 5 minutes, she does a month’s worth of practice. It’s sort of like what happens with your muscles. I mean, you can go in the gym and start lifting 5 pound weights and nothing will happen. But, if you go in the gym and work at weights that are just beyond your ability, where you’re barely able to lift them, you’ll get pretty strong in a hurry.
What Clarissa is doing is getting into that zone, that very, very fruitful zone on the edge of her ability where she’s making mistakes and fixing those mistakes and reaching past what she can do. It’s an uncomfortable place to be in. It feels weird. It feels frustrating to be there. Your fingertips are grazing what you want to grab. But, when we are in that position, we learn 10 times faster than when we’re simply going to the motions.
So to have this idea of high velocity practice in the way that you could — and what’s actually happening, let’s x-ray that moment for a second. When we look closely at that moment, what’s happening in our brain is we are firing electricity through wires of our brain and we’re detecting mistakes and we’re using those mistakes as a map. Mistakes feel like verdicts. Mistakes feel like sort of a judgment on whether we are able to do something or not. But what you see in really productive practice sessions is mistakes treated as information, as points on a map that you use to navigate toward a solution.
That insight where to say, look, if I got to the edge of my abilities, I push myself to make mistakes, fix mistakes and repeat intensively, I can build. I’m actually building these fast fluent circuits in my brain. I’m hooking up these wires and when I repeat very intensively, I’m making those wires function a lot better. I’m actually wrapping them with insulation. That’s what’s happening in your brain.
When you go to apply this to a business world, it’s exactly the same as if you are applying it to a sporting world or a music world. You’re trying to build a circuit of a certain shape. You’re trying to realize when you make a mistake, fix that mistake and repeat very intensively. When you approach, let’s say, we gave the traders as an example. What they do for instance some of the more successful things that I’ve heard — they’ll do trading simulations where they will literally cram a month’s worth of trading into a single day. They’ll compress the speed.
That’s one thing we see a lot in the talent hotbeds that I visited. They compress everything into these small areas where you can make many repetitions. It’s very similar to what I saw in Brazil, looking at soccer training in Brazil. They’ve invented a game down there that is basically like soccer played in phone booth called Futebol de Salao. The kids touch the ball 600% more often. The game is very fast. There is a lot of touching. You get many more chances to make mistakes, many more chances to operate at the edge of your ability.
So these traders, they’ll go in and they create basically their version of Futebol de Salao. They will create these programs where they can intensively go through a month’s worth of trading and then most important, they’ll go back. They’ll see, “What should I have done at this point?” They’ll keep a journal. They’ll slowly construct a map of their circuitry and they’ll slowly build that circuitry. This is not sort of your classic quick fix. What it is is highly efficient concentrated work that grows our brain circuitry quickly.