Holding My Feet to the Fire – My Deliberate Practice Video Experiment

July 19, 2017

Watching this video above, 15 months after starting this whole experiment, is quite a cringeworthy experience.

  • Is that really me?  
  • Was I really that bad?  
  • Why am I wearing a pink top with pink flowers in the background?

So many questions...

15 months and around 60 videos after starting my deliberate practice experiment, I can say just that deliberate practice is working well for me, so far.  

What is This Experiment?

For a while I had the idea of creating videos about self development so that I could get better at video presentation, improve my reading speed and retention and, of course, my writing.

And, like most people, I took this idea, figured it was a good one, and then did nothing but procrastinate for a couple of months.  

It was only when my business partner called me out that I started.

"You keep talking about this.  What are you waiting for?"

Of course I could have easily come up with some seemingly rational and acceptable reasons as to why I didn't have time, it wasn't the right moment, I wanted to focus on other things...

Enough was enough.  Time to get busy and stop bullshitting myself.

I set out the following goals:-

  1. Read, study and take notes on the top 140 self development books
  2. Produce videos about the concepts and learnings that I take away from those books
  3. Keep at this relentlessly until the end

And that's what I've been doing alongside my normal work ever since.

Here is a spreadsheet of my progress so far.  At the time of writing, I've read 45 books, taken 400,000 words of notes and created 70+ videos on my YouTube channel.

Relentless Improvement

One concept that's been beaten into me by the deliberate practice crowd is the idea that just practice alone isn't enough.  It's got to be hard, and it's got to be focused on a specific area.

Each time I make a new video, I'm trying to work on something to improve it.  I've found this pretty hard to make myself do.  Here's some of the stuff that I've worked through so far:

  • Better positioning in the frame
  • Improved pacing
  • Stopped the continual swaying backwards and forwards
  • Deliberate ending of sentences rather than the dreaded never-ending sentence that plagued my earlier videos.
  • More pronounced facial expression and vocal intonation
  • The content is structured and more focused.  My earlier videos are a lot more "all over the place" such that the key points were lost.
  • A way of explaining more complex concepts in a simple and concise fashion so that the viewers aren't lost in a word salad of generalities and vague concepts that they can't relate to
  • Improved lighting and microphone setup
  • Hooks to captivate the viewer at the start of the video
  • A new awareness of how to create a viewer-centric video, rather than "the best video with the most information possible".  In other words: I have a better understanding of what people will and won't tolerate watching.  I'm better at cutting out additional information that adds no value.

One of the hardest things of this process has been figuring out what I should be improving.  At the start, I was so clueless about the skill of presentation and video production that I didn't even fully recognize how bad I was.

For example, I had no idea that people found my videos boring and waffly until I saw their eyes glaze over as they watched my earlier book reviews.  

I now find myself watching videos of people that are clearly better at this than me and trying to deconstruct what they're doing so well:-

  • Ramit Sethi produces beautifully polished and clearly articulated videos on a wide range of self development subjects.  Example
  • Leo Gura is a master of conveying really complex topics in a very clear and engaging fashion.  Not only are these videos incredibly detailed and insightful, but they're also shot in one take (very impressive).  Example
  • Owen from Real Social Dynamics is really great at being present in his videos - there's no filtering going on. He also has this ability to create a humorous yet insightful monologue on pretty much any subject. He's also really good at changing the pace of the video by jumping in and out of different personas.  Example

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