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J.K. Rowling’s Number One Piece of Career Advice


Twenty years ago this week, Harry Potter graced the shelves of bookstores for the very first time, but its success didn’t come from magic potions, wands or a powerful thunderbolt-shaped scar. It came from practice. A lot of practice.

In honor of the book’s 20th anniversary, fans have taken to Twitter to share their love and admiration for the story’s main characters and the author who created them, J.K. Rowling. The BBC shared a 1997 interview with Rowling. At the time, she had finished the second book, out of the seven in its series, and was working on the third. When asked for book-writing advice, Rowling said she had spent “years and years” before working on the craft.

“I think you need to practice and work out what worked and what didn’t work and keep going,” she said.

Yes, “practice makes perfect” is a cliche, but it seems to work. A study from York University last year followed ballet dancers when they initially learned a dance and, after seven weeks, found the dancers’ brains had started slowly in learning the dance, accelerated quickly to a midpoint and then found itself at a slower pace again. The reason? After the midpoint, the dancers had begun to master the routine.

n order to be a great interviewee,one should rehearse like an actor for a role in a play or a presidential candidate prepping for debate, and spend hours repeating questions and answers, said Alex Freund, a career and interview coach at Landing Expert in Princeton, N.J. “The only way to learn how to be good at interviewing is not only to have the right answer, but the knowledge and confidence to answer well,” he said.

But even after they feel they’ve mastered a task, people should never stop practicing. Another study from Brown University in Providence, R.I. found that “overlearning,” such as training on a task for 20 minutes longer than the level of mastery, solidifies a person’s understanding and ability to follow through on that task. Researchers gave volunteers the task of identifying patterns in two images, and found that the group of volunteers who spent more time repeating the first task as opposed to starting a new task had done a better job accomplishing it.


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