Can you trust your intuition?

Wayne Gretzky, New York Rangers.
Image via Wikipedia

There are two characteristics that are basic to experts, according to many separate studies, books and commentaries. The first is, over time (10,000 hours?) experts build up a huge database of patterns in their memory that allows them to predict what’s going to happen next with a lot more accuracy than the rest of us non-experts. It’s like being able to tell the future.

With all these patterns logged in the brain, and you can call it “experience”, an expert can consistently put him/herself in the right place at just the right time or make the best move. A great example is Wayne Gretzky: fans and writers marveled at how he seemed to know where the puck was going to be in the middle of the violent chaos of a hockey game. Asked later, after yet another stunning performance how he knew exactly where to be on the ice to find the free puck and make the assist or score, he couldn’t tell us. He just felt it was the right place to be.

The second characteristic that comes up over and over again is performing without thinking. The conscious part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, is not designed to process information and issue commands to your muscles quickly. In fact, thinking about what you’re doing during competition degrades your performance.

Here are a few resources that talk about these:

Zen Golf, Dr. Joseph Parent

Choke, Sian Beilock

The unconscious expert

Mind Wide Open, Steven Johnson

The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle

If you put in the time to build your database, you just might be able to tell the future. Then, if you can get out of your own way, stop thinking about what to do next and just do what feels right, you just might become world-class.

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