The 4 things it takes to be an expert

Published 2022-08-02
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Thanks to and Chessable for the clip of Magnus.

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Hogarth, R. M., Lejarraga, T., & Soyer, E. (2015). The two settings of kind and wicked learning environments. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(5), 379-385. –

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Ericsson, K. A. (2015). Acquisition and maintenance of medical expertise: a perspective from the expert-performance approach with deliberate practice. Academic Medicine, 90(11), 1471-1486. –

Goldberg, S. B., Rousmaniere, T., Miller, S. D., Whipple, J., Nielsen, S. L., Hoyt, W. T., & Wampold, B. E. (2016). Do psychotherapists improve with time and experience? A longitudinal analysis of outcomes in a clinical setting. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 1. –

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363. –

Egan, D. E., & Schwartz, B. J. (1979). Chunking in recall of symbolic drawings. Memory & Cognition, 7(2), 149-158. –

Tetlock, P. E. (2017). Expert political judgment. In Expert Political Judgment. Princeton University Press. –

Melton, R. S. (1952). A comparison of clinical and actuarial methods of prediction with an assessment of the relative accuracy of different clinicians. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota.

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Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. –

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Written by Derek Muller and Petr Lebedev
Animation by Ivy Tello and Fabio Albertelli
Filmed by Derek Muller and Raquel Nuno
Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images
Music from Epidemic Sound (
Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev, and Emily Zhang

All Comments (21)
  • I recently had a MASSIVE argument with my university because they repeatedly did not provide any feedback to essays or exams. Just a mark and that's it. I backed my perspective with a ton of academic works on education, that I doubt any of them ever read.

    I'm going to show them this video. Because university courses that don't provide feedback are virtually useless.
  • Lucas Carman
    Getting comfortable is the part that always kills me. I learn very quickly but once I get something down fairly well, I stop challenging myself and just rest on that success.
  • Jessica Tatum
    100% this is how I was trained to be a ballet dancer and I didn't even recognize it. We do the same movements in slightly varying patterns every single day in a structured class, and for actual repertoire we repeat the EXACT same movements over and over, with a teacher or coach telling you what to improve after each attempt. As you get stronger, you do more and more challenging combinations of movement with increased complexity and strength requirements, and you spend more time reviewing and conditioning on your own time. Eventually you get really good at learning and doing choreography in certain styles/from certain choreographers because you start to recognize the patterns of movement they tend to employ.
  • There are two different propositions suggested by this title: Actually becoming skilled at something and being recognized by a society as being skilled at something. Being recognized takes little skill at the particular thing, but it's a skill on its own... Kinda like getting good grades has at best a sidling relationship with actually getting a good understanding of the material the course teaches.
  • As a trained physicist this was really interesting. I have not the best memory recall, some guys know the answer to a problem they did years ago, but I always have a „gut feeling“ how the equations will emerge and I can see a strong pattern in equations, even looking at it for a small amount of time is often enough to restructure the stuff in my head - even when not perfect, it’s a good cope for a usually bad memory recall
  • A J
    "Only after a refresher course could the (20-years experience) doctors accurately diagnose (rare) diseases" better than recent med-school graduates.
  • I recently set myself the challenge to learn how to speak Greek. This has been a really helpful video to remind me to make time for deliberate practice. That for me means not just repeating the words and phrases I know but pushing myself to use different ones and to start new conversations.
  • I've had years of formal classical music training, work in a competitive STEM field, basically a lot of experience with deliberate practice. It's funny though, the one skill that emphasized what this video was about more than anything else was butterfly knife flipping. The blade cuts you if you mess up, everything depends on how your fingers move and how you judge inertia, tricks are clearly defined and compartmentalizable, and if you don't learn new tricks, you are only stuck with the specific ones you know. It literally teaches you how to practice
  • jeaniebird
    I've always been fascinated with the fact that patterns are everywhere. As a teen, I wrote a poem about patterless patterns. I guess it was me realizing without realizing that even randomness isn't random.
  • The pattern recognition became very clear to me when I learned Morse code. The human brain takes 50 milliseconds to process and understand a sound. People regularly send and receive Morse code at 30 words per minute, which puts the dit character and the gap between all characters at 40 milliseconds. So you literally have to process sounds faster than the brain can recognize them. Over time you start to hear whole words in the code rather than individual letters, but you still have to decode call signs character by character. You basically cache the sounds in your brain without processing them, and once the whole set of characters passes, your brain is able to turn it into an idea and add it to the stack of previous ideas while your ears are already caching the next set of characters.
  • I used to play tournament chess in HS, learned tennis as an adult and played in USTA leagues, learned a few instruments and played in a few bands. The number one fail I saw of people along the same journeys as I while learning new things is their comfort level. Everyone has a rough time learning but some would gain a little competence and rest on those tiny laurels - and not get more competent. It seemed like people would find the laurels that fit their egos and then they stopped. They didn't go until they exhausted their abilities. Someone/something didn't say stop. They stopped themselves.
  • Leeepo Faith
    "Excellence is not an art, it's pure Habit. We are what we repeatedly do."
  • Peter Obara
    As a radiologist, the feedback is there but you have to put in a lot more effort and discipline to seek it out (save and follow-up on tough cases). Part of the deliberate practice becomes going back through case collections that have follow-up already so the feedback becomes more immediate. This way you can go through hundreds of cases pretty quickly (if you put in the effort), much like a chess player reviewing old games.
  • SKRT
    I've been playing piano for almost 20 years now and it all feels like instinct at some point. You basically can play a very complex piece without thinking about the piece or what notes to play. It all falls down to muscle memory which is thousands of played repetitions. Very interesting indeed.
  • This is why I really want my university to have the answers to past papers. I could learn the entire course in a few weeks if they did that.
  • Kawaranai
    This video gives me hope that I'll be able to overcome the difficulties I'm facing at the moment. I'm a Computer Science student but I'm a very average coder and problem solver. This has been an issue for years, throwing me into tough situations academically. Now that organisations are beginning to recruit students of my year from university, I'm floundering while trying to get myself an internship. I'll try my hardest to put into practice what this video summarizes. As a reminder to myself,
    1. Valid environment
    2. Many repetitions
    3. Timely feedback
    4. Challenge yourself, actively focus on improving your weaknesses.