Ironman swim in Kona, Hawaii; US Navy Photo by Chief Journalist Deborah Carson

Today is the Ford Ironman Triathlon here in Madison, Wisconsin.  Over 2,000 athletes converge on the city to compete in the event for which they have been practicing over the past months and years.

In a way, triathletes are something of an anomaly in our day and age, when “practice” has become almost obsolete for adults.  I agree with the thoughts of Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn who observed that for most adults, “…their days of methodically trying to build a new set of skills or sharpen their old ones are long past them” (August 14, 2011, “In praise of the lost art of practice”).

Still, science continues to uphold the merits of practice in order to achieve optimal learning.  Consider, for instance, the work of Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Roemer (1993) who have showed us that to achieve expert status in anything, we need to engage in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.  Deliberate practice means not just repetition of skills, but repetition with immediate, informative feedback that will allow us to correct our errors.

Or consider the reminder that psychology professor Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth gives us in her summary of the research on achievement ( “There is no domain of expertise that has been studied where the world-class performers have put in fewer than ten years of consistent, deliberate practice.”

My husband and I were sitting at the dinner table the other night trying to ascertain if we have practiced anything for ten years or 10,000 hours.  I am proud to say that this month, I am celebrating my ten-year anniversary of becoming a licensed psychologist, and so there is at least one endeavor in my life that has received its fair share of practice.

Our next question was, “What would happen if you gave your finances 10,000 hours of practice?”  Warren Buffet once said that by the time he was ten years old, he had read every book on investing that was available in the Omaha public library.  And by the time he finished high school, he had tried about 20 different businesses.  Buffet is often described as a reliable, hard-working, determined individual who continually refines his approach.  He is perhaps one of our best role models of deliberate practice in the financial realm.

What aspect of your financial life could benefit from deliberate practice?  What is one practice routine that you could add to your life to strengthen your financial outcomes down the road?