Is This How “Naturals” Think?

Steven Barnes
5 min readMay 31, 2023

This book, THE ART OF PRACTICE by Laido Dittmar is slippery. I sense that there is something hugely important here, but I’m having a little trouble extracting that core difference. So I’m going to do the same thing I did with THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH (which resulted in the MAGIC formula) and try to extract every major point one at a time, and go over it and over it until I’ve done just that.

Basically, Laido is a Cirque Du Soliel juggler, born into a circus family, who frustrated his parents by exhibiting no talent for any of the different “circus” skills they tried to teach him. He DID, however, have a talent for drawing. One day he took one of those DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN classes, and the teacher called him a “natural” who didn’t need the class.

But here’s the thing: people who went through the class ended up drawing as well as he did, after just a few days. His conclusion:

“Naturals” think differently. It isn’t that they have more “talent” because they all started out lousy. They progressed faster because they are doing something different. So he wondered if he could test this theory by studying the best circus performers and “Modeling” them NLP-style.

Here’s the thing: they usually said things like “you have to love it, and work hard.” Heard that one? And in terms of brute force change, it works, a bit. But that wasn’t enough.

Then, instead of asking them questions, he started observing them. And what he saw was counter-intuitive. A bunch of different things came out of that observation, and as said, I’m going to extract them so that I can understand what I’ve got ahold of here. Here’s the first one:

FIRST PRINCIPLE: “Non-naturals” work on perfecting a routine. “NATURALS” will work a skill until they are 90% perfect, then begin to practice a more ADVANCED version of that same skill. For instance, juggling 3 balls. The “non-natural” practices that until they are “perfect.” The “naturals” practice until they are 90% perfect, and then move up to FOUR balls. And here’s the thing: when they get to 90% perfect with four, if they go back and try three…they are perfect.

The notion is that the first 80–90% of learning a skill often comes rapidly. The last 10–20% can take 3–4 times as long as the first 80–90!

This clicked for me, because it would go along with what George Leonard said in his book Mastery, even though it isn’t the same reasoning: that…



Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts.