Practice Perfect - PRESENT Podiatry
Practice Perfect
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2017 Books In Review

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Jarrod Shapiro
books on a shelf spelling out 2017

As the New Year 2018 comes around, and we’re making our resolution lists, let’s take a few minutes to look back on 2017. For me, this past year included reading a pile of psychology/self improvement books. These varied from the science of learning and studying to resilience to expertise.

For me the overall theme in this year’s reading and re-reading was “metacognition,” or thinking about thinking. Initially, I was motivated to explore this topic as part of my role as residency director and teacher of podiatry students. I’m always on the lookout for efficient ways to improve my trainees’ learning. However, while reading these I also found great suggestions to improve myself.

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I was even privileged to be allowed to give a lecture on this very topic at one of the PRESENT Residency Summits. In many ways metacognition is the overarching theme of the Practice Perfect editorials, and I would argue having a metacognitive perspective on ourselves, is the one skill all medical caregivers should have. To that end, I’d like to set out a quick review discussing some of the principle books that were most helpful to grow my own metacognition over the past year. Incidentally, these books, and the research behind them, have been heavily referenced in popular culture, speaking to their universality.

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel –The authors discuss the updated psychological research on learning in a very accessible manner. They review concepts such as learning must be effortful, passive reading is ineffective, and the key importance of retrieval practice (ie quizzing), among many others. This one should be read by all of our students entering podiatry schools.

Learn Better, Ulrich Boser – Everyone wants to be capable of learning new ideas and skills, and this book provides many useful suggestions based on a logical approach that includes value (learning as mental doing), creating a target that leads to a specific plan, development through deliberate practice, extending our knowledge by relating it to prior knowledge, and rethinking or reflection.

SKILL, Christopher S Ahmad - This short book is an example of deliberate practice in action. Dr Ahmad is an orthopedic surgeon who works with the New York Yankees, among other successes. His book provides 40 recommendations for how to build true expertise. These range from emotional recommendations, such as accepting responsibility, to practical ones like always carrying a notebook, and reverse engineering your mentor. Dr Ahmad reviews other expertise-building methods, including improving skills through the REPS technique and being a better coach for others.

Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth – Resilience in the face of hardship is something we all need and MacArthur Genius Fellow Dr Angela Duckworth puts this important characteristic in perspective, discussing how improving perseverance can lead to greater success. Grit, which requires holding a top-level goal for a long time, is improved by focusing on four factors: interest (true passion develops from discovery and development which deepens over time), practice (the very specific type called deliberate practice), purpose (the intention to contribute to the well-being of others), and hope (maintaining a growth mindset – a concept worth reading about in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck). I found this book particularly useful in light of discussions about the millennial generation and my own children.

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman – Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kaheman, along with his now deceased partner, Amos Tversky, completely upended our understanding of choice in the face of uncertainty. What they found, and what this book summarizes in rather heavy detail, is the lack of rationality of most humans when making decisions. Instead of purely logical thought processes, humans are subject to a variety of cognitive biases and heuristics that significantly affect how we live, our opinions, and our actions. This is one of the most important books of the decade and deserves a focused read.

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Geoff Colvin - I’ve mentioned the concept of deliberate practice a few times already, and this book discusses this highly effective method to attain expertise in detail. Deliberate practice requires one to prepare, perform the activity, receive focused feedback on deficiencies, and then repeat the process many times. As it turns out, this is the very method used by the most expert among us.

I hope your 2017 was as intellectually stimulating as mine was and your 2018 is as successful or more so.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes.
Jarrod Shapiro Signature
Jarrod Shapiro, DPM
PRESENT Practice Perfect Editor
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