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Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better Hardcover – September 19, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon.com Exclusive: Q & A with Authors Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi

Doug Lemov Erica Woolway Katie Yezzi

What would you say are the few biggest misconceptions around practice?

Though we’ve found there are actually more than a few misconceptions about practice, here are three:

  • Myth 1: Practice to improve your weaknesses. Not true. You should in fact focus on practicing strengths. You’ll get stronger results this way.
  • Myth 2: Stop practicing when you achieve competence. Nope. What marks champions is their excellence at something—they may have weaknesses, but their strengths are honed and polished to the level of brilliance. The value of practice begins at mastery!
  • Myth 3: Practice is dull. Wrong. It certainly has a reputation for being a bleak necessity and the primary provenance of children laboring over trombones and basketballs. But in fact, practice is fun, exciting, and ideal for adults.

How do you suggest people incorporate the right kind of practice into their daily lives?

There are many ways. One concrete idea is to practice with a partner. Find a peer who cares as much as you do about some key aspect of your work and schedule ten (fun) minutes, three times a week, to work on the skills you’re both interested in developing.

What does each of you practice in your professional or personal lives?

Doug: I practice a lot with my kids. They’re athletes—soccer players and skiers, especially. It’s my goal to help them be good at something they care about. And though I played soccer in college, I think back with sadness at how much better I wanted to be and how much time I spent trying to get better on my own when, in retrospect, I was wasting my time. I learned how to handle the ball only long after college. And so, in addition to wanting to help my kids succeed at the things they love, I want to model for them how to get better at things throughout their lives, so they never have to feel that. One bright spot, one thing I think was very helpful to them as soccer players, is the two-footed drill. I started having them do it when they were younger to get them natural and fluid at two of the core building blocks of soccer—being able to use both feet and being in the habit of redirecting your first touch. In the two-footed drill, we pass the ball back and forth, but you have to receive the ball with one foot, transfer it to the other foot on the first touch, and pass it back with that foot—in one fluid motion. Always two feet; always two touches. And the focal point is the speed of the foot-to-foot process. Once my kids got it down, we just kept doing it, over and over. We do it every time we warm up, so they are fluid, natural, and automatic. It’s definitely made them much more fundamentally sound at the game. It’s also allowed them to allocate their brain power to thinking about what to do with the ball when they get it in the game, since they’re pretty automatic at receiving.

Erica: In my professional life, what I find myself practicing most are the presentations that I have to give in front of large audiences. In preparing for a presentation, after I have created and revised my materials, I carefully script my talking points. I then practice delivering the presentation quietly to myself; when I am ready, I ask a colleague to watch a small section and give feedback on any part that is new or particularly challenging for me. My final step the morning of the presentation is usually to practice in front of a full-length mirror. The first time I did this (after getting over feeling incredibly awkward) I learned so much about my non-verbal communication. I saw myself shifting my weight frequently from foot to foot, and I realized that signaled a lack of confidence to my audience. Every time I practice with a mirror, I learn something new about what I am signaling to my audience. In my personal life I practice with my kids, but not in the traditional sense of the word. My oldest son is only four, so he is still too young for the consistent practice of a particular sport or hobby, but he and his little brother are not too young to benefit from practice. For example I realized recently that our bedtime routine (from brushing our teeth to heads asleep on pillows) was taking entirely too long. So I planned how to streamline it, explained it to them step-by-step, and we practiced it a few times around 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. That first night, they were excited about the new “Bedtime Club,” and we followed all the steps to a tee–cutting bedtime in half. We then practiced it consistently for a week or so, and now everybody in our house feels a little less stress in the evenings.

Katie: I try to practice difficult conversations that I know I need to have with colleagues or the parents of the students in the school I lead. I usually practice with my managing director, and that almost always includes me taking notes as he models what that conversation might sound like. In particular, I write down key phrases in outline format to ensure I remember the key points and make them clearly. I run through what I want to say a couple times in that moment, and I usually do it again as I drive home. Then, I review my notes right before I have the conversation. Practice definitely helps me to stay calm and confident when emotions are high. In my personal life, I play and practice Ultimate Frisbee. I’ve played for over 20 years, but what I practice most are the basic skills of throwing and catching. I notice that it makes a huge difference in my pass completion during games if I have practiced completing passes before playing. That kind of practice makes me more focused and more confident.


"Learning to practice, this book vividly illustrates, takes time and effort, trial and error. It won't happen tomorrow. But even a small movement in the direction of more practice will reap benefits...." (The Washington Post's 'Class Struggle' blog, October 2012)

"Practice Perfect is a valuable read for everyone who wants to help their employees grow and excel through practice." (Examiner.com, October 2012)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (September 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 111821658X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118216583
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Ron Wis VINE VOICE on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I ordered this book thinking it would give me insight into better methods of practicing. The type of practicing I had in mind was, for example, how to improve my golf score, learn a foreign language faster or learn to play piano more quickly. Practice Perfect is, however, largely geared to coaching teachers and educators on classroom management. The book has clearly been stretched to try to include a larger audience then it actually addresses. The often used "sales team improvement" anecdote is occasionally added as an attempt to generalize but then the authors quickly return to writing about coaching teachers. The authors really only have educators in mind (they are, in fact, educator coaches themselves). That being said, there is good advice in the early chapters on what everyone can do to improve their practice (however, you won't find specifics on say, how best to learn a new language or what pitfalls to avoid) and what general mistakes are made during practice.

As far as coaching educators is concerned, I would like to have seen data on how the authors methods have led to actual improvements in student performance. By that I mean student grade improvement. It is not enough to say that teacher 'John Doe' uses our technique and is consistently a top teacher (and what actually is a 'top teacher'?). John Doe could be a top teacher for many reasons. There have been many top teachers before this book was published.

Worth a read, but mainly if you are an educator.
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Format: Hardcover
I first became interested in the subject of practice after reading books like "Talent is Overrated," "Bounce," and "The Talent Code," and I was inspired by their stories of novices who developed into world-class performers after engaging in a very different form of practice than the rest of us: deep, deliberate, and purposeful practice.

Although these books renewed my appreciation for practice, they didn't really change the way I did things. After reading "Practice Perfect," I not only have a concrete understanding of what purposeful practice actually entails, but I'm putting the book's principles to use in my daily work and seeing improvement as a result.

This book is especially useful to me because the authors have distilled the qualities of great practice down into actionable rules that are straightforward and bite-sized enough for me to implement without having to turn my daily routines upside down. It's filled with suggestions for small changes that can yield big differences in everything from performance to workplace culture.

As a participant in these authors' teacher training workshops, I have seen these principles work for so many others. I've watched teachers eagerly dive into practice activities, take risks, implement their colleagues' feedback, and then take what they've learned from these workshops and apply it in their classrooms with great results. I've seen the authors build (in a matter of hours) a powerful culture of practice between teachers that is fun, collaborative, challenging, and effective. The best part is that this book demystifies how they go about doing so in a way that others can apply--whether or not they are involved in teacher training or education.

I'm inspired to continue applying what I learned from this book, and I encourage anyone who is eager to learn more about how to get better at getting better to check it out.
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Format: Hardcover
For several decades, Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University have been conducting research on peak performance, and he began to attract attention after the publication of a Harvard Business Review article, The Making of an Expert (July/August 2007), he co-authored with Michael J. Prietula and Edward T. Cokely. They observe, "Before practice, opportunity, and luck can combine to create expertise, the would-be expert needs to demythologize the achievement of top-level performance, because the notion that genius is born, not made, is deeply ingrained. It's perhaps most perfectly exemplified in the person of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is typically presented as a child prodigy with exceptional innate musical genius. Nobody questions that Mozart's achievements were extraordinary compared with those of his contemporaries. What's often forgotten, however, is that his development was equally exceptional for his time. His musical tutelage started before he was four years old, and his father, also a skilled composer, was a famous music teacher and had written one of the first books on violin instruction. Like other world-class performers, Mozart was not born an expert--he became one." With rare exception, the research suggests that peak performance requires at least 10,000 of highly disciplined ("deep, deliberate, sharply focused") practice under expert supervision in combination with being in the right circumstances at the right time.

All this serves to help introduce Practice Perfect, the latest of several excellent books whose authors or co-authors discuss the meaning and significance of revelations for which the research of Ericsson and his associates is primarily responsible and duly acknowledged.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a life-long autodidact, I was completely led astray, not only by the title, but even more so by its sub-title: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. It soon became apparent that this is an instruction manual for teachers and coaches, not for someone working alone while trying to improve one's skills. Nevertheless, I gamely plowed through each page to see what I could find of personal benefit. Sadly, the answer is: almost nothing.

So here's the problem: This book has much to recommend it, but only for the intended audience. The material is presented in a competent fashion, understandable, with many (too many?) examples that enforce the principles espoused. If you think the foregoing sentence sounds pedantic, wait until you read this book.

If you are a teacher or a coach, you may very well find something of value here, hence the three-star rating.

Besides not judging a book by its cover, maybe we should add: Nor by its title.
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