341 – Anders Ericsson [Anniversary Episode]: 7 Secrets of Mastery


Anders K. Ericsson discovered the “10,000” hour rule. I had him on my podcast in 2016 to talk about peak performance. (One of my favorite topics.)

He broke down the steps everyone needs to know to learn and MASTER a skill.

I still use what I learned from Anders everyday.

So I’m really proud to re-release this episode. And I also included some brand new, bonus content for you. I just recorded it. It’s a mix of my favorite insights, lessons and quotes from Anders. Listen and enjoy!

Here’s 7 things I learned about how to become a PEAK performer:

A) Train to do things that you can’t do   

Laszlo Polgar raised three prodigies. But the prodigy is a myth.

He had three daughters. The Polgar sisters.

They were world-class chess players. Two became world champions.

But they weren’t born with talent. Talent is a dangerous myth with the power to decrease motivation.

The Polgar sisters trained.

“That’s pretty compelling in retrospect,” Anders says.

Don’t let the myth of talent trap you.

Become compelling instead.

B) There is no can’t

“People have been convinced that as an adult you’re pretty much fixed,” Anders says, “…that there’s a limit on what you can do.”

They’re wrong.

Whenever you start something you start at zero.

Because you can’t do it… yet.

C) Predict today. Just today

I don’t want to know my future. Predictions are dreams that become worries.

How do you change your life? I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what works for me.

Do things you love. Everyday.

Practice. Improve 1% a day.

Practicing something you love takes away the pain.

And time passes.

Your future slips in. And you’re there with new skills. New opportunities. And a new future.

No predictions. Just presence.

D) Follow your motivating source

Writing helps me sort things out. And lets me help people.

Maybe you.

I hope.

That’s my motivating source.

I asked Anders, “How would you guide someone to find their area?”

Look at “the joy you get.”

There’s a fountain inside. You have one. And if you follow it, you’ll always have something that flows.

You can use it to reach new levels, Anders says, “but that is ultimately not the reward itself.”

“For example, if you’re a musician and able to play in front of an audience, and actually feel how that audience is moved by your music, those are your driving forces.”

They’re “key to reaching exceptional levels,” he says.

E) Get a teacher…

F) …the right teacher

All the greats had great teachers.

“You need a specialized teacher with accumulated knowledge,” Anders says.

First you learn the basics. Then practice. Get feedback. And advance.

Socrates, The Polgar Sisters, Michelangelo. They all reached mastery. And made unique contributions.

But you don’t need a teacher to do that. To make a difference.

G) Learn by doing

You can’t really be capable of anything until you do it.

So you have to try.

Anders says, “Willingness to fail is at the heart.”

Find joy in the process.

I was in one of the studies mentioned in Anders’ book. It was on chess masters.

I’m proud of that. But there is one downside to mastery.

You can’t master it all.


Links and Resources

Also Mentioned

  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Polgar SIsters (the 3 best female Hungarian chess players ever)
  • Laszlo Polgar (chess teacher who raised 3 chess prodigies his daughters)
  • The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
  • Mozart – considered the most talented prodigy in music history, Anders disputes this
  • Magnus Carlsen – the best chess player in the world at age 12
  • Michelangelo
  • Picasso – one of the best painters of his time
  • Andy Warhol – in the 1950s he was a master illustrator
  • The Boston Marathon


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  • Maria Moreno

    Really great interview, Mr Altucher asked great questions and had a lot of interesting input.!! Super impressed w/ James interviewing.

    • Indeed, James is a world class interviewer. It’s not mistake James has had way more practice than many!

  • Linda Mathews

    Loved this interview also. Just one comment about the website, wish I didn’t have to scroll page by page back to see all previous interviews; there is no apparent way to jump back a few pages without going through all pages. Help!