The 4 Elements of Deliberate Practice -- The Source of Kobe's Greatness

Everybody wants to be a superstar like Kobe Bryant. Nobody wants to pay the price.


As a kid, I remember practicing my jump shot in the driveway. I would imagine the clock ticking down -- "5", "4", "3", "2", "1" and releasing my jump shot, while yelling "Kobe!" --- Only to watch the ball clang off the rim. For some reason we thought that calling out the name of a prominent athlete (Jordan, Garnett, Iverson, etc) would somehow magically cause us to shoot a higher percentage. Perhaps it did.

This was at the age that all of my peers dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. We wanted to be the next Jordan, Pele, Elway or Agassi. We wanted to be superstars and somehow still live the lives of normal kids -- going to birthday parties, playing after school and learning to become productive members of society. We didn't understand the price they paid in order to achieve greatness in their sport.

Similarly, today many of my peers dream of becoming the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Ramit Sethi, Richard Branson, Marc Cuban or Bill Gates. We want to be a superstar and still live the life of a normal working adult. We want to see our friends, hangout on the weekends, live a low stress lifestyle (no worries), and yet have all of the riches and freedom the life of a high-profile entrepreneur promises.

But, are we willing to pay the price?

In his book the Mindful Athlete, George Mumford, tells the story of Kobe Bryant and the price he paid to become a future hall of famer.  

Every high-performing mindful athlete knows that if you want to achieve something, there’s a good chance that you can, no matter what, if—and this is a big if—you’re willing to pay the price.

You not only have to focus on your intention, but you also have to be willing to get up early in the morning and do the same thing thousands and thousands of times—and then another thousand times—with intention.

Which leads me to deliberate practice. ...

When I worked with Kobe Bryant, he was making about 1,300 3-pointers a day in the off-season when he was working on his three-point shot.
— George Mumford from The Mindful Athlete

Early in his career Kobe recognized the growing importance of the 3 point shot in the modern NBA. He understood that in order to be a transformational player he needed to become an extraordinary three-point shooter.

He set his intention and each day he paid the price -- 1,300 three-pointers PER DAY during the offseason. We all know how his career turned out.

  • #3 All-time in career points scored (33,643 )
  • 5× NBA champion (2000–2002, 2009–2010)
  • 2× NBA Finals MVP (2009–2010)
  • NBA Most Valuable Player (2008)
  • 18× NBA All-Star (1998, 2000–2016)
  • 11× All-NBA First Team (2002–2004, 2006–2013)
  • 9× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2000, 2003–2004, 2006–2011)
  • 2× NBA scoring champion (2006–2007)
  • Los Angeles Lakers all-time leading scorer

His career is a master class on how intention, willpower and deliberate practice can lead to extraordinary results. 


The 4 Elements of Deliberate Practice and Rapid Skill Acquisition

In K. Anders Ericsson’s The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, we learn about the 4 elements of deliberate practice. In this next section we’ll use Kobe Bryant's 1,300 three-pointers a day analogy and Erickson’s 4 elements of deliberate practice, in order to best understand how to use it for rapid skill acquisition.

Assuming you're intentional and these four conditions are met, deliberate practice improves your accuracy and speed of performance on cognitive, perceptual, and motor tasks.

You'll acquire skills faster, stand out from the crowd and develop the confidence in yourself to go out and make an impact on the world.

Here they are:

1. Motivation: You must be motivated to exert the necessary energy and effort to improve your performance.

Kobe definitely displayed motivation -- he wanted to win so bad that it often got him into trouble with teammates (Shaq) and coaches (Phil Jackson). His motivation, will to win and work ethic are legendary, even among elite NBA circles.

2. Clear Design and Objectives of the Practice Session: Your practice session should take into account your current level of understanding. The objectives and design of the practice session should be easily understood after a short instruction period. Clarity = POWER.

Kobe had one singular objective with taking 1,300 three-pointers a day: He wanted to be a player with unlimited shooting range.

The design was simple, 1,300 shots from all areas beyond the arc.  

3. Immediate Feedback: You should receive immediate informative feedback and knowledge of results of your performance.

Shooting a ball into a hoop is about as immediate as it gets. Kobe could see if the ball was going in or not. Each time he missed, he consciously made minor corrections in his body position, shot form, mindset and psychology.

4. Repetition: You should repeatedly perform the same or similar tasks.

Kobe: 1,300 three pointers a day. That's a lot. You get the point.



Let's focus on you. What do YOU want to achieve? What does your path to mastery look like?

Does that mean you read 100 books this year on business, invest in a mentor, start a side hustle and start building the business that's been collecting dust in your head in order to become an iconic entrepreneur?

Does that mean you copy the best writers of all time (by hand), write 1000 words each day and publish something 3x a week on your blog to become a New York Times Best Selling Author?

Does that mean you get a membership at an exclusive gym, eat nothing but health foods 6x a day, and commit to sleeping 8+ hours each night in order to achieve a fitness model physique?

Does that mean invest in an executive coach, arrive early, stay late and show a relentless commitment to making your company the best it can be so that you get promoted to the next level?

Whatever path to mastery you choose -- what is the price you must pay in order to achieve it? And are you willing to pay it?

In a world of 7,415,797,119 people, you can't half-ass it and achieve greatness. You need a full-ass commitment to DELIBERATE PRACTICE. Or you can be like one of the kids yelling "Kobe", dreaming of tomorrow, instead of taking 1,300 jump shots today.



[1] Mumford, G. (2015). The mindful athlete: Secrets to pure performance.

[2] Jackson, P., & Delehanty, H. (2015). Eleven rings: The soul of success.

[3] K. Anders Ericsson, 1993. The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. the American Psychological Association, Inc


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