Deliberate Practice for Content Marketers and Bloggers

by Paul Wolfe on November 17, 2011

(Note to subscribers – this week’s subscriber’s only post about Product Sequences will be published on Saturday).

In the last couple of weeks the topic of Deliberate Practice seems to have (finally!) reared its head in the Blogosphere.

There’s been discussion of it over at Corbett Barr’s new blog Expert Enough.  Yesterday Sonia Simone posted this at Copyblogger:

The 5 Keys To Content Marketing Mastery

And there are other bloggers talking about Deliberate Practice too.  A couple of bloggers have contacted me and asked about writing guest posts on the topic for them.

Why Me?

I’ve been researching and working on Deliberate Practice for over two years.  In November 2009 (the 20th if memory serves correctly) I published Version 1 of a book for bass guitar players about how to use Deliberate Practice.

And I’ve written several posts – both here and on other sites – about Deliberate Practice.

So given the ‘topicality’ of this subject I thought I’d link to my Deliberate Practice posts so if you’re new to the subject you can find them all!

The Links

Why The Talent Myth is Holding You Back And Squeezing Your Bottom Line This was a guest post over at Mark Harai’s blog earlier in the year.

Lessons For Content Marketers From Tiger Woods – Part 1 Forget the shenanigans that went on in Tiger’s personal life – this guy lives and breathes Deliberate Practice.  And I hate golf, I think it’s ultra boring.

But Tiger Woods is a great person to model learning behaviour from – this is the first article in a mini-series on Tiger Woods and practice.

Lessons For Content Marketers From Tiger Woods – Part 2 In Part 2 of this series we move on from how Tiger Woods chunks down parts of his game – and I show you how you could do that to practice and improve your blogging efforts.

Lessons For Content Marketers From Tiger Woods – An Introduction To Deliberate Practice Here’s my take on Deliberate Practice.  This will give you an idea of how to actually apply the system to your own practice and learning efforts.

Lessons For Content Marketers From Tiger Woods – Marlee’s Challenge My friend Marlee Wood set me a challenge – how to create a ‘practice’ regime to help her train to write like she talks.  Here’s my Deliberate Practice advice!

Do You Believe In Natural Talent? There’s no such thing as Natural Talent.  There’s just hard work over time.  Some people don’t want to believe it….that’s their choice.

How The Brain Learns – Doing The Neuron Dance This is an article I wrote for my bass guitar website.  It’s crucial to understand how the brain learns if you want to take full advantage of Deliberate Practice and get better at something.

The Real Reason You’ll Never Be Mozart…or Victor Wooten! I started a Deliberate Practice for Musicians blog – but for various reasons stopped posting to it.  Here’s an article on Mozart and bass player extraordinaire Victor Wooten – and why they are so good, and why you’re not.

7 Lessons From Talent Is Overrated This book literally changed my life.  Read some lessons from it – and then go buy the book.  And read it a bunch of times.  There are only two books I own in physical copy, eBook form and audio book version – this is one of them.  (The other is The War of Art).

How To Become A Grandmaster In Your Field – Work On Your Domain Map Do you even know what a Domain Map is?  This is another lesson from Talent Is Overrated.  Seriously, go buy it.  It’s less than $10 and if you only get 1% of the benefit I’ve had from the book that investment of $10 will pay you back hundreds of times over.

Summary/Your Shout

I tried to keep this short.  Deliberate Practice is a topic that more people should know about….maybe it’s time I stepped up and started shouting it from the rooftops.  Please go read some of the articles – and then come back and ask questions.

I’ll give you detailed answers that will help you, will help me, and will help anyone reading who wants to get better at something.

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Ryan Hanley November 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm


I it’s funny, I haven’t written anything on deliberate practice but I did make mention of the fact that I had seen the topic on several of the blogs in my Google Reader all within a week on Sonia’s post.

How I tend to phrase the idea is “always make yourself uncomfortable”. As you work constantly be pushing yourself just a little farther to make yourself uncomfortable. After a while that activity won’t be uncomfortable and you can push yourself further.

Different phrasing same idea VERY IMPORTANT.


Ryan H.

Paul Wolfe November 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Hey Ryan

That’s absolutely spot on. If you look at the post entitled AN INTRODUCTION TO DELIBERATE PRACTICE you’ll see this concept described as the Comfort Zone, Learning Zone, and Panic Zone.

To ensure that you keep learning you always have to practice material that is just outside your current capabilities – this is the learning zone. As you master those activities then your comfort zone expands, and you have to go to material that’s just outside what you can comfortably do again.

And this is the hardest thing about Deliberate Practice – always making sure you’re working on things that are just beyond your current level.


Ryan Hanley November 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I really like the thought of the “Panic Zone”. If you don’t hit that once in a while then you’re not pushing hard enough… ha!

Thanks again

Paul Wolfe November 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm

The Panic Zone is a good indicator that you’ve set your sights on learning something that you’re not ready yet to do. So although you want to avoid it – you can use it as a learning gauge.

Steve@Earn Money Online November 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm

No doubt you have been a long proponent of deliberate practice. I have read almost all of these articles, and you make a great point. While, I would still argue that inherent talent plays some part, you have without a doubt convinced me that deliberate practice is a far bigger piece of the pie.

Does it feel good to see others getting on board? Or does it rankle you when you see comments about the “great idea they found” in these new posts, when you have been beating the drum for years?

Paul Wolfe November 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm


Actually all I care about is that this information gets into the hands of people who need it.
Here’s a true story: back in my mid 20s I was already playing bass semi-professionally and I decided I wanted to improve and be a pro.

I found an American teacher, expensive, but lauded as the best teacher in the UK. And I took regular lessons with him for 18 months. And I practiced a minimum of 4 hours a day – sometimes 6. Sometimes 8. I even lost a couple of girlfriends over how much I practiced.

Only at the end of 18 months I wasn’t intrinsically any better – certainly not anything to reflect the investment of both time and money that I’d put in. And erroneously I concluded that I wasn’t getting any better because i’d reached the ‘limit’ of my talent.

And effectively I stopped playing. (Sure I still gigged and played professionally – but now it was just a job.) It wasn’t until I started the research for a book on practicing for the bass in 2008 that I discovered Deliberate Talent. And in hindsight realized that it wasn’t my fault – it was the teacher’s fault. he was teaching as a job – and wasn’t very good at it and was teaching the wrong stuff. (And he’s had some highly successful students – but I’d say that they were successful DESPITE his teaching, not because of it).

So I wasted nearly 2000 practice eyes because of this guy – had he been teaching me properly I would have made significant progress. And probably carried on.

So I’m really passionate this material gets out there so that other people don’t suffer a similar experience. So I’d love to see this material (and bear in mind I’m not responsible for inventing it, or discovering it – merely so far for translating it to the bass guitar) get massive publicity and more people start using it.

It could revolutionise not just adult self improvement, but the way we teach at school as well. So this is a wildly important topic to me.

Thanks for stopping by. (Product Sequences on Saturday!)


Marko @ train your ears November 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Hi Paul,

Sorry to hear about your “wasted” 18 months. That really sucks. :-(

One of my pet peeves is the saying “Those who can, do – those who can’t, teach.” It irritates the heck out of me because it’s sooo condescending. Especially, when it’s not too difficult to find examples of people who obviously shouldn’t be allowed to teach, even though they actually *CAN DO* whatever the activity/task/topic at hand is.

No doubt that principles and methodology have a tremendous impact on progress.
Recently I re-discovered some of my music college practice logbooks. I used to track my net! practice time (using a timer) and 5-7 hours/day on top of classes was fairly common.

However, with all the methods I’ve learned in the mean time I can safely say that my current 2 hours/day are better and worth more to me than my 7 hours/day in the past.

Looking forward to digging into the articles this weekend.


P.S.: The conclusion on the Mozart/Wooten article is spot on. You just need to correct a name. Mozart’s father was not Leonard, but Leopold. :-)

Paul Wolfe November 20, 2011 at 7:48 am

Hey Marko

Thanks for dropping by – be checking your site out when I get a moment. Thanks also for picking up Mozart Sr’s name – I knew it was Leopold, but obviously reached for Leonard when writing, and then missed it on editing.

I think one of the big issues that Deliberate Practice raises on is that most teachers of anything don’t actually know how to teach so that their students get results. (This ranges across disciplines and applies to teachers who teach for a living in schools and colleges too). I’d be interested in chatting further about your current 2 hours a day against the 7 hours a day from your past.

Thanks for stopping by. Be in touch.


Marko @ advancing guitarist November 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Hi Paul,

Absolutely, just knowing how to do stuff yourself unfortunately doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be able to teach it to somebody else. It needs deliberate practice applied to teaching itself. ;-)

I’ve already started to go over my notes and mind maps and compare them to the concepts from your articles. Give me a few more days (due to a production deadline) and I’d be happy to chat with you.

And thanks for the awesome comment on my blog and the FB share. I really appreciate it.

Take care,

Paul Wolfe November 22, 2011 at 7:21 am

Hey Marko

Welcome. That was a good post on your blog – very few people are talking about ‘functional’ ear training – and there’s little literature about it. SO it was good to point my bass audience to it.


satrap@ Internet Marketing November 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Hi Paul,
I am glad I stumbler upon this one. I have recently started reading about Deliberate Practice, since I have been trying to increase productivity (and get more things done in general). I have red a few of the articles you linked to, but majority of them are new to me and so I am very excited to see this post. It will be a great resource for me. Thank you.

Paul Wolfe November 20, 2011 at 7:51 am

Hey Satrap

Thanks for dropping by – the discovery of Deliberate Practice changed my life. If you learn the principles and start applying them, you’ll notice an improvement almost immediately. I even apply Deliberate Practice to playing football (soccer) with my 8 year old kid. He’s naturally right footed – but we have little sections of playing where he has to kick the ball 5 times with his left foot for every time he uses his right. It’s no coincidence to me that the coach at the football club at his school said he was the most ‘two footed’ footballer in his year group. It’s not just practice, it’s deliberate practice.


satrap@ Internet Marketing November 22, 2011 at 5:33 am

Now you got me really excited Paul. Beside reading the posts you linked to here, I was planning to do some research over the holidays once I get some free time, but after reading your reply, I dont think I can with. Is there any specific book, blog or an article that you owudl recommend for somebody totally new to kind of get the hang of it?…
Thanks in advance.

Paul Wolfe November 22, 2011 at 7:19 am


That book that introduced me to Deliberate Practice was TALENT IS OVERRATED by Geoff Colvin. Awesome book. That’s as good an introduction to the topic as possible.


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