How You Can Be Great at Anything
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Think about this: if you could be great at almost anything, what would it be? A sport? A skill? Leadership? Teaching? The guitar? So often people believe you have to be born with some genius level skill and that’s how you become great. But that is false.
What if I told you there was science proving that if you follow some important steps, you could actually be great at almost anything? Well, it’s true. So start dreaming. By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly how to do it.
I’ll never forget the time I read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called, Outliers. It was the first time for me to hear of the 10,000 hour rule. Basically the rule is this: Gladwell states research based on many genius level performers, Mozart, The Beatles, Bill Gates, and other famous people who all became experts in their fields. How did they become great? They put in over 10,000 hours into their craft – 2.74 hours a day for 10 years. He called it, “the magic number of expertise.” This reseach wasn’t actually his. It was developed by a man named Anders Ericcson who has just released a new book called, Peak – Secrets from the new science of expertise. I highly recommend this book.
Why is it important to understand the truth behind this rule? Because you can be great at almost anything if you apply what’s below. “Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born. These conclusions are based on rigorous research that looked at exceptional performance using scientific methods that are verifiable and reproducible.” Or, perhaps you have a child who is particularly talented at music or sports and you want to help them become the best they can be. Here is the truth about how to reach those goals and become great:
The Myth of the 10,000 Rule
Gladwell wasn’t quite accurate. There’s no magic to 10,000 hours. Let me explain. If you text on your smartphone for 10,000 hours, it doesn’t mean you will become a great author. If you swing a baseball bat 10,000 times, it doesn’t mean you will make it to the major leagues. True, you will improve. But you need something else to be great. Here’s are 3 things that will help almost anyone be great at something:
There is no substitute for hard work. If the 10,000 hour rule says anything, it says you have to work hard. You must put in a ton of time if you want to be great. There are no shortcuts. There were no shortcuts for the greats either. Mozart spent 10 years in silence working 1,000’s of hours before he produced a single piece of music that became popular.
Even if you have talent, you will quickly be outpaced by someone who works harder.
Please listen to me. No matter your age, don’t ever sit around and do nothing! Learn something new, improve at a sport, speak a new language, take on online class – just continue to learn. Your brain is wired for this. It’s called, “neuroplasticity,” which is a fairly new science revealing that your brain is constantly changing and creating new neural pathways. Your brain is built to transform so give it something to work with.
Get a great coach
So if it’s not just about 10,000 hours, what else is there? Something Ericsson calls, “Deliberate Pratice.” These practices are, “focused activities designed, typically by a teacher, for the sole purpose of effectively improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance.” The key here is to become great at something, it takes a lot of time and effort to improve. It’s focused and individualized.
Let’s say you want to help your child become the best soccer player they can be. If all they are doing is training alone, that is not enough. If you enroll them in the local soccer club on a team, that is a great step – but again, not enough. Why? Because one coach cannot possibly have the mental focus it takes to work on each person’s individual strengths and weaknesses. There are at least 15 kids on the team and they only have an hour and a half. It takes the 1 on 1 individualized coaching by the best coach you can find combined with things like specialty clinics. Deliberate practice is about improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance and helping the overcome personal areas of weakness.
That’s also why I started, Your Positivity Coach and LeadersElevate (website still in progress). For leaders to be the best they can be, they need a coach and they need to learn to coach themselves. We are often the last person to see our weaknesses and we need someone to help us reach the next level of our best – and that can only come from deliberate practice and a personal coach.
Make it hard
The other interesting piece to deliberate practice, according to Ericcson, is that it can’t be easy. I find this an interesting correlation to life. When we become creatures of comfort, we are often not in a good place. We need change and disruption in our lives in order for new things to emerge.
Think about getting in shape. To get in shape, it’s going to take pain and effort. You have to get your heart rate up 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If order for your body to respond it has to be disrupted and that’s going to be hard.
To become an expert, it’s going to take an enormous amount of effort. You will be stretched and pulled. You will wake up many times before the sun and focus on your craft when no one sees. But in the end you will have done something few on this earth can say they have accomplished – you will become a master at something you are passionate about. And that’s worth everything.
For more information on the 10,000 hour rule and deliberate practice, I highly suggest listening to this Freakonomics podcast by clicking here.
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