It was my first trial. I wish I could remember how many times I practiced my opening statement, how many times I practiced my cross-examinations and how many times I practiced my closing argument. I realize now that I deliberately practiced each and broke each into chunks when I was practicing.

Yesterday, I shared with you why practicing deliberately doing is an important component of becoming more successful. In part 2, I want to share with you how to do it, and how I might help you do it if I was coaching you.

Yesterday was not my first post on deliberate practice. I have written about deliberate practice a couple of times in 2009, I wrote: Rainmaking: What Does It Take? In that post I mentioned an important book by Geoff Colvin: Talent is Overrated Shortly thereafter, I wrote: Rainmaking If Not Talent What Does It Take?

So, what is deliberate practice? According to Colvin:

  1. Deliberate practice is designed specifically to improve performance.
  2. Deliberate practice can be repeated a lot.
  3. Feedback on results is continuously available.
  4. It’s highly demanding mentally.

Yesterday, I mentioned another great book on this subject: The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How written by Daniel Coyle. Chapter 4 is “The Three Rules of Deep Practice” and begins with a Samuel Beckett quote:

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

In that chapter, Coyle writes about “chunking.” Here is one important part of the concept.

First, the participants look at the task as a whole — as one big chunk, the megacircuit. Second, they divide it into its smallest possible chunks. Third, they play with time, slowing the action down, then speeding it up, to learn its inner architecture.

Coyle also writes:

Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking out a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.

  1. Pick a target.
  2. Reach for it.
  3. Evaluate the gap between the target and the reach.
  4. Return to step one.

Coyle writes about two teachers who studied how John Wooden coached during practice. It was nothing like they expected.

He taught in chunks, using what he called the “whole-part method”— he would teach players an entire move, then break it down to work on its elemental actions. He formulated laws of learning (which might be retitled laws of myelin): explanation, demonstration, imitation, correction, and repetition.

How would we deliberately practice?

Ok, how would I help you deliberately practice and break tasks into chunks. Let’s take two areas:

  1. Blogging
  2. Presentations

Deliberate practice-Blogging

If I coach you on blogging, it will be somewhat like participating in a creative writing course with lots of feedback on your writing.

We will begin with your topic. For each topic, I will ask you to explain why your potential clients, referral sources and other readers would find the topic valuable.

Next we will work on your headlines for each topic.

Next, we will work on your first sentence.

Next we will work on the remainder of your first paragraph.

When we finally work on your last paragraph and last sentence, I will have you tell me what you expect your reader’s takeaway to be, and what you want the reader to think of you.

Deliberate practice-Presentations

If I coach you on making presentations, it will be like participating in an acting class, only we will cover more than your presentation style.

We will focus first on your subject. Once again I will ask you to explain why your audience will find your presentation valuable.

Next, if you create slides, we will go over your slides one-by-one.

Next, I will have you give your opening to me and we will go over it until you know that you will get the attention of your audience.

I will shoot video of you presenting and we will go over your eye contact, facial expressions, posture, gestures and how you are connecting with your audience.

Then we will turn to your speaking voice.

After going over your main points, we will go over how you close your presentation.

Then, I will ask you to give your presentation to me from start to finish.

Those are examples of deliberate practice with feedback. When I read many lawyer blogs or watch many lawyer presentations, I am left with the impression that the lawyers writing and presenting have not deliberately practiced and gotten feedback.

I will leave you with a link to an interesting blog that was posted Monday: How to Acquire Any New Skill in 20 Hours or Less. I am not convinced that I can acquire any new skill in 20 hours or less. If I could, then I would be speaking French fluently.

For our purpose, read closely near the end of the blog where the writer lays out the core method to acquire any new skill. I think his ideas on that fit what I have been describing to you.