Peak — Book Summary

Peak Book Cover

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

by Anders Ericsson

Published: 2017 | 336 pages
Rating Amazon:  stars rating 4.6 
Rating by reviewer:  stars rating 3.9 
Author of the article: Sovi Herring
Date of the summary: Oct 31, 2020

Ericcson and Pool put down strategies and tactics for effective improvement in the pages of this first-person expose on the road to attaining expertise.

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Within the pages of "Peak" are great examples of real research in perfect alignment with real life. It's not just a case study with every other word being a psychological jumble of jargon, but digestible science with a high likelihood of usability for anyone who picks up the collection. The authors take a unified approach under the point of view of one as he encounters each study and situation in life on the road to helping others become experts in whatever field they wish.

Interesting quotes from the book

In the beginning, they were nothing more than toys to play with.

— Anders Ericsson, Peak

This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.

— Anders Ericsson, Peak

Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it.

— Anders Ericsson, Peak

Summary of the book Peak

The in-sync authors we find in this book reveal a multitude of information that contains too well-kept secrets. Slowly, but surely, you can find a few confirmations to help you improve nearly any skill you could think of picking up or honing. With that, let's begin identifying the best of the best the book as to offer.

The Gift

This first chapter tells us about what most people consider an innate/born-with gift; perfect pitch. Those of us not studying the music field will often recall the same person we know had such a talent; Mozart. The authors go into great detail about the composer and list quite a bit of information that most people don't ever experience.

Within just a few minutes of reading, we find that:

  • Perfect pitch is easily obtainable if you study music (preferably at a young age)
  • Recent studies show it's not necessarily cultural either
  • Truly, raw application to the young mind

I understand what you may be thinking — children are always exceptionable learners. I'm not a child, so how can I use this information? Well, the answer lies in the simple conclusion that most people never truly arrive at: the trick lies in learning effectively. Ericcson and Pool cite a study that had children heavily study via exposure and private lessons to piano to test if practical learning was enough to develop perfect pitch, and low-and-behold it was.

No longer is it believed that perfect pitch is an innate talent, but simply a well-developed at an early age skill because young minds can handle new knowledge.

The same idea can be applied to adults, but with a less remarkable timetable. We simply need the time to be able to develop these skills. Unfortunately, most people can't spend 8 hours a day to become a better musician, speaker or video game creator. For most, you can squeeze in an hour here or there, and hope for your next break. You can attain your goals of improvement, especially if you take the following messages to heart.

Purposeful Practice

In the next segment, we find that the best results come from practicing a strict regime with proven strengthening methods. Such practices are usually proven through years of teaching various people to produce a way for almost anyone to learn--and these come from the suggestions of mentors.

These proven methods are usually in older and straight-forward fields of study, such as classical music, language learning and even computer sciences. When learning about something not quite so clear, something more subjective than objective, finding such proposed methods could be more difficult. You need to find creative practice from a trusted mentor, or well-established person in the field. Thankfully, the 21st century offers a lot of opportunities to learn and practice any skill online and in person.

If you're unable to find such resources, you can take the following steps to help you outline the best next steps to work on your self-teaching.

  1. Decide on a specific skill to strengthen
  2. Identify the most difficult part for you
  3. Record the discovery
  4. Find an online tutorial OR begin small drills
  5. Practice at every turn however you can

To see this in action, let's say you want to be better at science. Specifically, you want to remember more of the periodic table. Where do you stop? Write it down. Research some children's songs and work your way up until it's too challenging and begin practicing. Do it in the shower, on the train, or even as you stare into space. However, don't forget to take breaks so you don't burn yourself out too quickly.


When shooting for the stars, however distant, it's important to have a specific one picked out to help you along the journey. What I mean is, you have to find someone you admire with the skill you want to model after all the tactics that build the skill from the inside out. Even in fields like accounting, you can find the best accountant you know of/have met and begin identifying what makes you different from them.

  • Is it the amount of experience in the field?
  • Do they have a particular strategy that makes it easier to accomplish X, Y, or Z?
  • Who were some of their mentors?
  • What were they like when they were your age?
  • What are their biggest, professional regrets?

Always Welcome Feedback

No matter your situation, you should always welcome feedback from outside/unbiased sources. It's important to see where you're at from other persons point of view, and even gauge if you're improving.

When receiving feedback, keep these things in mind:

  • Stay calm. You don't need to be happy, but listen as best you can.
  • Without open criticism, you will never move forward.
  • Everyone will have something to say at some point.
  • There is time to make it better.

When asking for feedback, be sure to include:

  • What can be done differently?
  • Do you see any improvement compared to last time?
  • Would there be any training to help me move on?
  • Is there a new technique that may help me move on faster?

Again, there are lots of ways the book helps by providing insight on how to become a better expert in any field, and the above is just the tip of the iceberg to help you get started.

Key Lessons from book Peak

Lesson 1: Find A Quality Teacher

Everyone has the need for a teacher in areas they want to improve. Finding one can be tricky, but "Peak" offers a few selective items to keep in mind when searching.

  • Someone with the experience
  • Someone who willingly coaches during the day
  • Always provide specific and constructive criticism

Lesson 2: Always Put in The Work

While trying to continue on a path to help your needs, it's important to put in the work and rest. Whether it's by reading carefully, finding new practices to put into motion, or simply listening to new sets of instructions, never stop working. They say 10,000 hours makes one a master, but if it's not quality time put in you'll be no master at all.

Lesson 3: Stop Comparing

Not everyone has a natural talent in what they do, and you can rarely tell how much they work for their current status behind the scenes. You are the best you have been, and not the best you could be. You need to give yourself time to show improvement and document your progress to help visualize your goals.

Review of the book Peak

On a personal standpoint, this book can be very useful if you are just starting to begin taking personal improvement seriously. It offers great beginner insight on skills and case study examples to build up new knowledge to act on.


  • + easy to read
  • + lots of niche case studies
  • + clear purpose in chapters


  • - the case studies are very niche-focused
  • - tips are more vague than concise
  • - some chapters are semi repetitive


Finally, "Peak" would be best for people just beginning to look for ways to improve and new to the field. While there are a few pieces of jargon in the text from business to psychology, it's fairly well-explained so you can finish the book cover to cover with little trouble so long as time is not an issue. It will provide a basic framework by shinning a light on what you may be unclear of or are doing wrong, and then giving generic steps to help aid you for the next few steps in your journey to becoming the best version you can be!

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