Just finished Joshua Foer’s book Moonwalking with Einstein, one of the most amusing books I’ve read in a while. I’d highly recommend it to anyone, just based on the style of his writing alone, which strikes me as Jonah Lehrer as written by Sarah Vowell (of The Wordy Shipmates period, not Assassination Vacation). But that probably doesn’t really capture it either.
You know what — you just have to read it.
In any case, a lot of it is about memory tricks and the like, but the thread that runs through it to the end is the power of deliberate practice (he becomes a test subject during his training for Ericsson himself). We tend to not get better at things after achieving base-level competency because we know enough to get by. Unstructured experience, as Ericsson has shown again and again, can be a really poor teacher. Conversely, when we make a commitment to approach our performance more critically and strategically, even small amounts of effort can pay off big. Working smart at learning something will tend to beat working long.
All good lessons, I think.