An Expertise Acceleration Experiment in Judo - Commoncog

In November of 2022 I moved to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, to train for the upcoming Senior National Judo Championships. The competition will be held on the 11th and 12th of March this year; as I write this, I have less than a month left to prepare. I’m in my 30s, I’m not a particularly good Judoka, and I haven’t been in a Judo competition since I was a teenager.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I really enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing your experience thus far. I look forward to reading more when this experiment finishes.

I am sure you would like to win in your competitions, but considering all the parameters, competing is already a win. If you make it that far, you are a hero in my book.

I look forward to reading more thoughts on DP and mental toughness. I would love to have a technique for developing owns own DP in personal domains. For example, I learned a second language. I am functional but still, make many mistakes. I see my faults, I know where I need to improve. With this, I am working on collecting information that I need to bolster my weaknesses. But these things need to go beyond academics, and will require some rote learning along with spaced repetition.

Long story short, I want to develop a training system for myself that will produce meaningful results.

On a broader spectrum, I would be interested in a formula for developing DP systems in the departments I work.

In conclusion, through your writing and the last 10+ years of work, you have proven you have mental toughness. I see it in your writing and approach to research. It seems you are learning to map what you have into a new domain, but you are not starting from zero.

Anyhow, wishing you the best.


Thank you for the kind words, @TfTHacker. :bowing_man:

I think the real issue with attempting to use DP in career domains is really pedagogical development. Let’s define that as: how do you identify sub-skills accurately, and come up with exercises to practice and train each of the sub-skills?

I … don’t have good thoughts about this right now, as I’ve yet to process my experience, but I want to link to this (fairly old, members-only) article I wrote on the topic: A Map of Expertise Research for the Career-Minded - Commoncog

I may or may not change my mind on some of these points in the wake of this experiment, but this was definitely my take going into this training camp.

Re: learning language, I’d urge you to look up existing best practices for language learning, actually. Language is one area where there has been a well established history of pedagogical development; in fact, in Accelerated Expertise the authors note that there probably isn’t much acceleration to be had in language training any longer, since the military/intelligence agencies has spent decades and untold millions funding research programs and developing training programs within their academies (I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I think the current best case is zero to full proficiency in under two years).

I personally haven’t looked into the research, but I’d start with the citations in Accelerated Expertise.

Best of luck! More notes when I come back!

1 Like

Oh, also, @kirso asked for my notes on my weight loss plan (which I had originally included in this essay but cut it out because I thought it was too much detail):

  • I use a meal plan (Yolofoods) that delivers frozen, pre-cooked meals once a week, for 14 meals. Each meal is around 500kcal, for a total of 1000kcal.
  • I am never hungry, because I am allowed to supplement that meal plan with as much fruit and canned fish as possible. Why canned fish? First, because it is lean meat, second, because it is easy to prepare (no need to microwave, just open and eat), and finally, because it is protein, and our digestive systems slow down when dealing with protein, meaning we feel satiated for longer.
  • I get one cheat day a week. In fact, today is my cheat day, and after writing this I’m going out to eat as much burgers and fries that I can shove down my face.

I actually found it slightly amusing to write this paragraph, in a previous essay about Goodhart’s Law:

Losing weight is a process with two well known inputs: calories in (what you eat), and calories out (what you burn through exercise). This means that the primary difficulty of hitting a weight loss goal is to figure out how your body responds to different types of exercise or different types of foods, and how these new habits might fit into your daily life (this assumes you’re disciplined enough to stick to those habits in the first place, which, well, you know).

Mostly because I actually lived it.

But bear in mind that I train four-to-five hours of Judo on most days, and Judo is almost like HIIT in intensity. So that’s a huge amount of caloric output per day, and unrealistic for most working adults to maintain. I know I’m certainly not going to be able to maintain that output when this experiment ends — to some degree, I welcome becoming fat again.


I have the kinds of questions which might present as a distraction in the midst of training. They’ll keep for a month.

In the meantime: It’s clear you’ve leveled up control of your body along multiple dimensions. Keep going! There’s more to be had, all to your benefit.

1 Like

Thank you for sharing such a personal story (it was definitely one of my favorites). I was wondering if you had more thoughts into the mental training aspect of this experience. Do you think CBT could be viewed as the DP of mental work? Did you realize you were being mentally weak or did it become apparent only when the coach pointed it out? I also struggle with this in my career and training regimes and I find it fascinating. I think it is such a difficult skill to make transparent and gather feedback on. Aside from deep introspection and occasional body language I can’t think of many other ways to improve it.

1 Like

I do have more thoughts on the mental training aspects, but I’ll save it for a future piece, after this entire experiment is over. Right now my training volume and intensity is still ramping up, and I have to treat each day as a new test for mental training; I can only relax after the hard training is over (this varies from day to day, but usually ends at around 9:30pm every night).

Hmm! I’d actually not thought about my mental training as a form of CBT. I’ll have to get back to you on that. But to answer your second question: I did not realise I was being mentally weak; it only became apparent after my coach pointed it out to me.

1 Like

A post was split to a new topic: Commoncog App Status?

A post was split to a new topic: Follow Ups on the Judo Experiment

I sent the following in an email to Cedric, but he encouraged me to post it here, so doing so.

Thanks for sharing your journey in the deliberate practice piece.

I guess I read Peak differently than you (admittedly, it’s been several years since I read it), because I don’t recall the caveat that it requires “a field with well-established training techniques”. From your article, it seems like I confused purposeful practice and deliberate practice, as I think purposeful practice can very well be applied to most business and leadership skills, and in fact, that’s a large part of what I offer as an executive coach.

I’m curious what you think the practical difference is between purposeful and deliberate practice? I have seen purposeful practice make a huge difference in my clients in weeks or months, so maybe that’s the best that can be hoped for without the added requirements of deliberate practice? I don’t think I can get it to the bar of “unreliable to 95% reliability in 1 to 3 practice sessions” but that feels like an artificially high bar.

Regardless, I’ve found that designing small practices or experiments can lead to substantial skill gains and identity shifts for my clients. I have the advantage that I am working with dozens of leaders at once, so I can identify what are the behaviors or skills that will get people to where they want to go, and have plenty of opportunities to have clients try different practices to get there.

I do think “Talent is overrated” to some extent. People often confuse talent with practice. I sometimes refer to a quote from Teller the magician ("Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect”) and tell a story about a director of mine who excelled at executive presentations. Before I worked with him, I thought he was just naturally talented at presentation; then I saw how many hours he put into practicing and honing his presentations. That’s not deliberate practice per the Ericsson definition, but it was definitely purposeful practice. Similarly, I once had a client want to work on their presentation skills - he wanted to “Steve Jobs” it. I asked him how much he practiced, and he said he didn’t, and I reminded him that Steve Jobs would practice his presentations for a month.

The problem I see is that most people give up before they start - they don’t even try to get better. Once they try some small practices and experiments, they realize they can get better and start to develop a growth mindset and bias towards continuous improvement. A typical conversation I will have with a client when we’re starting is them identifying they want to get better at something like executive presence.

Me: “Okay, so think of a couple people you know that have that executive presence. What makes them different than you?”

Them: “Oh, they’re just naturally good at it.”

Me: “But if you observe their actual behaviors and actions, what do they do that you don’t do?”

Them: start to analyze and look for what’s different e.g. speak concisely instead of rambling, project their voice, know their audience, stand up straight, etc.

Me: “Okay, how can you practice that?”

So this gets to the idea of breaking it down into identifiable chunkable sub-skills, and applies to presence, networking, influence, and other “executive” skills that people dismiss as “soft” skills.

So I think while you may be correct that you can’t deliberately practice those skills, I think you’re too dismissive of the value of purposeful practice and the ability to improve quickly if you actually analyze and break down these skills.

[Cedric’s response pointed out that I might be the coach allowing my clients to do deliberate practice, because I design skill practices for them]

I suppose that my clients are doing deliberate practice given those parameters. Fortunately, I don’t actually have to do pedagogical development. I’ve read plenty of management books and other resources that offer practices to build such skills, so I rarely am designing anything new - I’m mostly just matching what my client needs to one of those resources. As one of my clients put it, he had read many management books but my superpower is telling him where he needs to focus right now because otherwise, it was just too much overwhelming advice and information. So my role as the coach is to identify the sub-skills that are holding back my clients, and identify exercises they can try to improve (and give them the cognitive framework to interpret the feedback they’re getting e.g. telling new executives that their functional expertise is no longer what they will be measured on).


I sometimes wish that such clarity of training and feedback exists in other skill domains. How much easier it would be to get good at organisational design, or org politics, or software architecture, or, hell, the art of business , if you could isolate and train for specific scenarios the way it is possible to do in sports?

This is the conceit of “The Rehearsal” by Nathan Fielder. It’s satirical reality comedy but the premise is that he creates a simulacrum and a flowchart of possible scenarios to “rehearse” a situation before someone actually does it. It’s pretty fascinating and also funny. Obviously unrealistic, but Cedric’s essay made me think of what DP of real-life interactions would look like.