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What We Learned Teaching Over 1000 Professionals How to Practice Deliberately


Top Performer Returns

Last October, Scott Young and I launched an online course called Top Performer, which teaches knowledge workers how to apply the insights of deliberate practice to excel professionally. The first session of the course was a big success, so, by popular demand, we’re going to open up a new session later in May.

To help prepare for this new session, Scott and I wrote a series of articles that share the most interesting insights we’ve learned from the over 1000 individuals who have gone through our curriculum to date.

We’ll be posting these articles over the next two weeks only on our email newsletters (to keep our respective blogs tidy).

Therefore, if you’re intrigued by the idea of deliberate practice in the workplace, sign up for my newsletter using the form at the top of my right sidebar.

If you already receive my posts in your inbox from me (e.g., and not from Google) then you’re all set. Similarly, if you already receive Scott’s posts by email — and if you don’t, you should!  — you’re also all set.

What to Expect from the Launch Process

I know some of you don’t like when I sell things (e.g., this course, my books), so I want to let you know in advance exactly what to expect from this launch process…

The article series mentioned above will be published on our email lists over the next two weeks. After those two weeks, we will briefly open Top Performer for sign-ups, so there will probably be a flurry of 2 – 3 posts/reminders on the blog and email list surrounding that short window.

And that’s it.

15 thoughts on “What We Learned Teaching Over 1000 Professionals How to Practice Deliberately”

  1. Hi Cal,

    Thank you very much for this coming emails and the Top Performer program. Looking forward learning more from you.

    I have just learnt about you two weeks ago, and so happy that I learnt about Deep Work.

    Highly Appreciate Your Work!

    Best Regards,

    Ismayil Valiyev

  2. Cal – Thanks. I must say that this has the look and feel of some sort of effort to build your email list. You’ve been successful in part because you’re not too salesy. This feels like you want to create a Tim Ferriss-Type email list for marketing purposes.

  3. Cal:

    I’d say be the best professor you can be who also writes fascinating books, not an Amy Cuddy, or worse, a Tim Ferris. You have something truly special going — don’t water it down too much or you will loose your center. You have a picture of a mountain peak but you call it “top performance” — what gives? Did you read the book Peak by Ericsson and figure out a way to exploit but the name was taken, or is this really your own thing? Sorry for the skepticism, but no one gets disappointed like a real fan.

    • Zenben who are you to tell Cal what he should work on and how he should market it?

      I’ve read Deep Work and struggled to create a deliberate practice training schedule for my field (management consulting) given I can’t take over as managing director of any business I choose. I also read all of K. Anders Ericsson’s books to try and sort this out but to little avail.

      I’ve internalized the concepts and just need help creating a structured plan to carry it out. In this case an online courses is a much more appropriate format than yet another book.

      So this sounds like the perfect course for me. And a drip feed email introduction is a perfectly reasonable way for me to learn more about it before I buy it.

      Nice work Cal and looking forward to seeing what’s in the course.

    • I agree with Zenben. I’ve been reading your blog since high school (I have just finished college and started work now!). The insights I have gained from your blog and books have have helped me not only professionally but also in my personal life. I can not thank you enough for it yet I’m a bit skeptical about this Top Performer thing.

    • Do you really think the course isn’t more life-changing (i.e., more valuable) than Cal’s books? If he has the time to produce and maintain a course, more power to him. I hope it makes him rich, because he’s already helped thousands of people earn a lot more money by changing their worldviews. He is going out of his way to not annoy anti-sales readers, so just don’t buy it if you don’t like it.

  4. Cal I’m pretty excited to read this as I became a subscriber only a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been reading your archives from Day One and am now close to finishing 2015. I was feeling a little sad about that but now I feel like a diver emerging on the surface — there’s now the fun of being current!

    Your philosophy and hacks obviously are applicable in education, business and knowledge careers, I’d suggest that they also have a more universal application in this age of distraction. I’ve been applying your techniques to everyday life and experiencing some great results, fixed schedule productivity and a Sunday ritual are superb.

    It may be possible that you have the best commenters around, I think I’ve spent an equal time in posts and comments. Great stuff Cal, it’s good to join you all.

  5. Cal hi.

    I am based in Johannesburg SA and was fortunate to visit Stanford university , San-Francisco and stayed at an Airbnb apartment at Silicon Valley for 2x weeks in April.

    So I bumped into your new book( Deep Work ) at the SF university Book store and bought it right there. I have now gone through it cover2cover reading through what Deep Work is , the 4cardinal rules and your inspirational conclusion with a Global Business icon Bill Gates . I have noted all other role models and practitioners of Deep Work mentioned in the book and their rewarding achievements.

    Thanks for changing my life at least perceptually about great Value in Deep Work and the importance of adopting minute by minute plus daily Fixed Schedule Productivity (FSP). I am saying perceptually because I have now challenged myself to DO & Practice Deep Work which is where in lies the real life changing experiences that I am looking forward to.

    You are my Hero and so I went on to sign up in your blog to keep fellowship with fellow Deep Work disciples.

  6. The course is a great idea. I bought it and it’s good.

    The issue though Cal is this: why did you and your partner not email the people who already paid $500 last fall for the course to let them know about these lessons learned? I would have thought you would let those people know first and share the nuggets with them.

    Instead it feels like you’re trying to build out an email marketing list (a la Tim Ferriss and others) the way you went about this.

    Your work is amazing. But please be a bit more careful on this.

  7. Cal – if these are lessons learned from the workshop, how come you guys haven’t emailed them out to the folks who paid $500 last year for the course?

  8. Actually I think Cal’s success is completely attributable to his consistent quality. Quality of content, quality of writing style, quality of depth, quality of service.

    I’ve really had enough of this insufferable entitlement mentality.

    This ‘saley’ hate is getting really old. Even when it wasn’t old, it still wasn’t good.

    Has Cal’s generosity in providing invaluable information for almost a decade, completely free of charge not warranted him the privilege to market himself? Has he not consistently proven himself through his content that he is not just some cheap salesman?

    ‘please be a bit more careful’ – seriously? Are you seriously threatening him?

    The people who paid for the workshop, paid for the workshop. Unless they were expressly promised follow-up information, that would be included in the package, then I see absolutely no warrant for this issue.

    My apologies Cal, for being so combative. I’ll understand if my comment is removed. I’m getting really tired of these scavengers who turn their nose up at anyone attempting to gain a return on their investment.

  9. Geoff – nobody is giving cal a hard time for selling books or courses. Nice straw man. The issue is that it’s cheesy to try to build out an email list and try to say it’s because he wants to keep the lessons learned and “clutter” this site (when the lessons learned are exactly what this site deals with).

  10. Guys:

    I am a big fan of Cal, as I said. Because I hold him in higher esteem than some of the other self-identified productivity gurus out there, I guess I am guilty of holding him to a higher standard than the other internet mavens. Maybe that wasn’t fair and I should have just held him to the same standard. What if Cal’s course ads appeared as pop-ups while you were reading his content? Would that be cool with everyone? I hope that in a few years from now he is publishing more excellent and novel material we are all eager to read, but I don’t want him to go down the commercial path that ends with him popping up unwanted on my screen like Tai Lopez. I am not sure where the line between self-promotion and bastardizing one’s own main message.

    Again, the central thought on my mind when I left my previous message was whether he was “better than that.” I think he is, but of course, he “has” to promote his work. Wait — his work is being a computer science professor! (I really hope he got tenure but haven’t seen a blog on that! None of my biz but since he brought it up in Deep Work one is obviously left curious.).

    Anyway, I think Cal portrays such a quality and meaning mindset and message to the world that he should also strive to offer true content each time he blogs. (Or not blog — I would be fine just waiting for he next book to come out.)

    If one of the central themes of Cal’s blog is for us to not get bogged down in meaningless internet distraction that does not contribute to our real contributions to the world, then he himself needs to be VERY attentive about resisting the impulse to post vacuous items which hint at future content somewhere else or coming soon. It is similar to blogging about grammar online — you better write with perfect grammar if you do that.

    If you look at the repeated thin-content blog ads that preceded the excellent book “Deep Work” before it came out you will see that it got to be a bit much. Like so many others, I suspect he may sometimes become trapped by his blogging “obligation” (it is actually a choice and a gift) to cut the information salami mighty thin at times.

    Still, because he sometimes demonstrates deep thought and, more importantly, packages things we already know into an inspiring and compelling narrative, we keep coming back to see if there might be something useful in his blog. Sometimes we are very pleasantly surprised. Just like with the rest of the godawful internet! Gotta move a whole lot of earth to find one fleck of precious silver, as Mark Twain vividly described in Roughing It.

    This message is more a confirmation of Cal’s central message about not getting side-tracked than anything. Don’t let anyone or anything side-track you, not even Cal Newport! I am pretty sure he would agree with that sentiment. I wish him nothing but success and will keep on the lookout for his next informative writings on achieving success, and more importantly, wish him many important contributions to the field of computer science.

    Of course, the irony here is that I just distracted myself for 10 minutes from writing my next paper while typing this! (I am a researcher).

    Go forth and produce!


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