Following the blog entries of the last two days, today I would add that the royal road to mastery of skills and knowledge is not “gear, gear, gear” but “practise, practise, practise”.
Christopher Bergland, in his Psychology Today article No.1 Reason Practice Makes Perfect, explains why, as the title of his article says, practice makes perfect. The “#1 reason”, he argues, is the cerebellum of the human brain.
Bergland learned about, and developed his fascination of, the cerebellum from his father. Although the cerebellum, or the “down brain” as Bergland calls it (in Latin, it means “little brain”), is much small than the cerebrum or, to use Bergland’s term again, the “up brain”, it holds more than 50% of the brain’s neurons. Because of this disproportionate distribution of neurons Bergland father always said of the cerebellum, "Whatever it's doing, it's doing a lot of it."
When the father taught the son to play tennis at a young age, his coaching was based on an understanding that muscle memory is stored in the cerebellum, and one has to do the same thing again and again and again to hardwire it into long-term muscle memory that is stored in the cerebellum. So his tennis coaching mantra to the son was "Carve the grooves into the cerebellum". The whole rationale was that the cerebellum is the house of the intuitive "subconscious mind". To create super fluid performance, one has to harness the intuitive powers of the cerebellum and have his actions spring from there. One also has to avoid being too analytical because, as Arthur Ashe said, "there is a syndrome in sports called 'paralysis by analysis'." Thinking too much not only blocks the cerebellum from working but also leads to over-excitement or even, in some bad cases, choking.
But this is easier said than done. It is because the cerebrum, the part of the brain that is responsible for thinking, is so big and powerful that it is hard to keep it quiet.
The only way to do it is, you've guessed it, practise, practise, practise.