Engraving Subscribe Pub

Make up for the all too short practice time - use engraving techniques to get better while... commuting or even... sleeping.

Engraving represents many things - for me, it is the catch-all for all methods and techniques of engraving a skill, other than practicing the skill directly.

  • watch others perform it
  • mental practice (think through the movements etc)
  • dream about it (playing a mental video of the movements)

It is recommended that you should spend 10-15 minutes a day engraving a skill you want to improve.

Related concepts: Ideokinesis, Hebbian theory, Myelin etc. Read more below as to why, how and when.

Why engraving?

Hebbian theory and myelin

While you should read the more detailed wikipedia article, the Hebbian theory is in my mind the generic principle that we learn things by practicing them and this transforms the brain.

The myelin idea is presented in The Talent Code and may explain the actual physical processes that make it happen.

Back to engraving

Either way, we can all probably agree that we get better at something by practicing it repeatedly. There are more efficient way to practice, like Deliberate Practice, but some form of practice is needed and the more the better.

Thinking about it or watching others do something very attentively, uses the same neural pathways as doing the thing itself. This is how engraving works.

Spend 15 minutes a day engraving a skill you want to master

The key to effective engraving is to create an intense connection: to watch and listen so closely that you can imagine the feeling of performing the skill.

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your SkillsThe little book of talent


Watch others

One way to engrave is to watch others perform the skill. For the engraving to happen properly, we need to put in some effort:

  • wide eyes, focused on the subject
  • absorb the subject's every move, in detail
  • pretend/imagine you are performing the skill with the subject
  • even imagine or conceptualize your neural pathways getting stronger with every practice

Stare at who you want to become

When I say “observing,” I’m not talking about passively watching. I’m talking about staring— the kind of raw, unblinking, intensely absorbed gazes you see in hungry cats or newborn babies.

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your SkillsThe little book of talent

This should get the most out of the engraving by watching others perform the skill. I seem to remember seeing somewhere that watching others perform a skill is, via some form of empathy, as much as 25% as effective as performing it ourselves...?

I, for instance, have a list of favorite ski videos which I quite frequently watch before and less frequently during the ski season, with videos of perfect, high quality skiing clips.

Dream it

Another effective way to engrave a skill is to think about it just before bed time. Not only do you benefit from thinking it through but you may also trigger your brain into thinking about it while you sleep.

Many successful people have a habit of thinking about hard problems just before bed and discover an answer in the morning - with the explanation that the brain subconsciously thought about it while we were asleep.

The thing to do here is to make a mental movie of yourself performing the skill perfectly – and play that movie a few times before bed time. Every time, try to get more vivid, with more details etc.

I believe this technique is also explained in the very good ski racing psychology book Prime Ski Racing.


Well, some methods like watching others do it require you set aside some time and focus on this. Others, like "dream it" require you do it just before bed.

Otherwise, there are plenty of times in the day when, if you are really passionate about something, you can spend some time mentally practicing: commuting, waiting in line, day dreaming etc.

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By: Razie | 2013-04-29 .. 2014-07-11 | Tags: post , coaching

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