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The Power Law in Practicing

There were some very good comments on, "Is Exponential Growth Possible?." Kimsia linked to this interesting academic paper on learning - http://acs.ist.psu.edu/papers/ritterS01.pdf

It's fairly intuitive and not groundbreaking, but there's a few really interesting points in there.

The basic idea behind the paper is that the more you practice a skill, the faster you get at it - but the gains slow down and flatten out over time.

The pattern is a rapid improvement followed by ever lesser improvements with further practice. Such negatively accelerated learning curves are typically described well by power functions, thus, learning is often said to follow the "power law of practice". Not shown on the graph, but occurring concurrently, is a decrease in variance in performance as the behavior reaches an apparent plateau on a linear plot. This plateau masks continuous small improvements with extensive practice that may only be visible on a log-log plot where months or years of practice can be seen. The longest measurements suggests that for some tasks improvement continues for over 100,000 trials.

Yagyu Munenori on Mind and Spirit

Yagyu Munenori, 1571 - 1646, in The Way of the Living Sword

That part inside each of us that makes plans, determines actions, and commits us to a path is called the mind. That part inside each of us that carries out plans, fulfills actions, and walks the path is called the spirit. The mind is the ultimate master of the body, and the spirit is its servant, to carry out the directions of the mind. The mind uses the spirit to accomplish all that it does. If the spirit acts too much on its own, you will fail. Insure you commit all things to your mind and strive to bring your spirit under subjection of your mind and the two will work as a seamless duo.

Interesting. Logical thinking and willpower do seem to use different parts of your brain, and yet the former can influence and control the latter with practice. Book is highly recommended, thanks to J.D. Rosemont for the recommendation.

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