skip to Main Content

Creating a Remarkable Life & Measuring According to Impact (Reading Notes 7.18.18)

Resource: The Grandmaster in the Corner Office: What the Study of Chess Experts Teaches Us about Building a Remarkable Life


Deliberate practice isn’t the same as what most people refer to as practice. In DP, you isolate your weaknesses and do specific things to hone those weaknesses into strengths. DP is about going all in on the things that are hardest for you. Effective DP requires frequent feedback. It’s not enough to have a good opinion about your own work. Most people work towards a level of competence that’s good enough, but then they stop there. DP is about pushing beyond that level.


“As Ericsson, along with his colleague Andreas Lehmann, noted in an exceptional overview of this topic, “the mere number of years of experience with relevant activities in a domain is typically only weakly related to performance.” Put another way, you need to put in a lot of hours to become exceptional, but raw hours alone doesn’t cut it.”

“Similar findings have been replicated in a variety of fields. To become exceptional you have to put in a lot of hours, but of equal importance, these hours have to be dedicated to the right type of work. A decade of serious chess playing will earn you an intermediate tournament ranking. But a decade of serious study of chess games can make you a grandmaster.”

“’m summarizing this research here because I want to make a provocative claim: understanding this “right type of work” is perhaps the most important (and most under-appreciated) step toward building a remarkable life…”

“t’s designed to improve performance. “The essence of deliberate practice is continually stretching an individual just beyond his or her current abilities. That may sound obvious, but most of us don’t do it in the activities we think of as practice.”

“Feedback on results is continuously available. “You may think that your rehearsal of a job interview was flawless, but your opinion isn’t what counts.”

“It’s hard. “Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands.”

“if you integrate any amount of DP into your regular schedule, you’ll be able to punch through the acceptable-level plateau holding back your peers. And breaking through this plateau is exactly what is required to train an ability that’s both rare and valuable (which, as I’ve argued, is the key to building a remarkable life).

“Let me use myself, in my role as a theoretical computer scientist, as an example. There are certain mathematical techniques that are increasingly seen as useful for the types of proofs I typically work on. What if I put aside one hour a day to systematically stretch my ability with these techniques? Taking a page out of the chess world, I might identify a series of relevant papers of increasing complexity, and try to replicate the steps of their key theorem proofs without reading them in advance. When stuck, I might peek ahead for just enough hints to keep making progress (e.g., reading an induction hypothesis, but not the details of their inductive step). The DP research tells me that this approach would likely generate large gains in my expertise. After a year of such deliberate study, I might even evolve into one of the experts on the topic in my community — a position that could yield tremendous benefits. Why am I not doing this? What would such strategies look like in other aspects of my life, like non-fiction writing or blogging? What about for other similar fields?”

Resource: Does Living a Remarkable Life Require Courage or Effort?


Living a remarkable life is less about having the courage to defy the status quo and more about having the discipline to create value. The people who end up having a lot of freedom are the people who sacrifice a lot of freedoms up front in order to get there.


“These same ideas, of course, show up again and again in the growing number of popular blogs and books that tackle the topic of building a remarkable life. At their core, they all express the following belief: the key to living a remarkable life is mustering the courage to step off the “safe path…In this post, by contrast, I argue that having the courage to ignore the status quo is of minimal importance for achieving this goal. The most important factor, instead, is becoming so good at something that society rewards you with a remarkable life.”

“A remarkable life is one in which: (1) you do something meaningful that you enjoy; (2) you have a flexible schedule that you control; and (3) you earn recognition and good (enough) compensation.”

“society will reward you with a remarkable life if and only if you can offer in return a useful and rare service. This is a basic economic argument: A remarkable life, as defined above, is very appealing and valuable. To earn it, therefore, requires the contribution of something valuable in return.”

“I think there’s a danger in focusing exclusively on the courage piece of building a remarkable life. It leads people to lionize the acting of making the bold decision to try something unconventional, but this decision, in the grand scheme of things, might not be that important.”

“My tentative conclusion: If you’re itching to make your life something amazing, consider spending less time daydreaming about defying the status quo and answering the critics of your decision, and spending more time gearing yourself up for the challenge of becoming so good that they can’t ignore you. Ultimately, it will probably be the latter that generates the remarkable results.”

Resource: Batting average is a trap


Your effort isn’t measured by your amount of at-bats divided by your number of hits. It’s determined by the impact you make.


“Baseball is not an accurate representation of life. In baseball, batting average matters because the outcome of the game is directly related to the percentage of times each batter gets on base. But in life, we’re not keeping track of how many times you get up to bat, or how many times you strike out. We’re keeping track of the impact you make.”

“The challenge is to find the resolve to bring your work to someone who will benefit from it. To learn from what doesn’t work and then to do the work again. For the right project, one in a hundred is as good as Ted Williams.”

Back To Top