How Your Brain Works: Fundamentals of Expertise

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Contrary to popular belief, natural endowment is usually only a small contributor to the acquisition of expertise. While there may be notable exceptions, experts in a given field are not typically more “gifted” than non-experts.

To that point, consider the following:

  • Nurture (through opportunity, extensive study, disciplined practice, and coaching) is extremely important in the development of expertise.
  • Experts do not typically possess extra-ordinary brains that are capable of remembering and calculating far beyond the capacity of “normal” brains.
  • Expertise is domain-specific. It is not correlated with general intelligence. In other words, being expert in chess does not make one expert in music.
  • Experts master meaningful patterns. Research shows that chess masters are no better than novices at understanding and remembering a random arrangement of chess pieces, but chess masters do have deep understanding when the chessboard is arranged in meaningful patterns… patterns based on the themes and strategies of chess.
  • Expertise is the product of experience… specifically the kind of experience that comes with disciplined work in pursuit of a meaningful goal.
  • Notice that the words expert, experience, and experiment all share the very same root: “exper”. This is no coincidence.
  • All experts, whatever their natural endowment, have one trait in common: LOVE for what they are doing. Passion fuels the work ethic and discipline required to study and persevere when things get tough… after all the non-experts have given up.

learn more… The Power & Challenge of Studying


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