How to Become Great at Something

thBefore we go on, let’s get one thing straight:

There is no such thing as natural talent.  There’s not.  The sooner you accept that statement and dismiss the old conventional wisdom that people are born a certain way, you can achieve greatness at something.

You may also be spending a lot of time reading blogs that insist that you can master things in a week, 10 days, or a month.  Good luck with that.

The only one ways to become good at something:

1. Surround yourself with greatness.  You need to learn to be great at something by reading or listening to others who know how to do it, but most especially by doing.  You must surround yourself by others who have achieved the greatness you want to become, then do it yourself.

2. Spend at least 15 minutes a day engraving the skill on your brain. You need to create a high-definition mental image of what you want to become.  Want to be a great swimmer?  Watch a great swimmer and visualize yourself being that swimmer.  Do this for 15 minutes each day.

3. Be willing to look stupid. Usually, we suck at stuff when we first start.  Going to the gym when you are out of shape is uncomfortable because we are worried about how we look.  If you are playing an instrument for the first time, you are probably going to sound crappy.  Be willing to look stupid.  It’s very temporary.

4. Work like a carpenter.  Be careful, slow and deliberate in your quest for greatness.  You need to connect the right wires in your brain.  Be keenly attuned to errors, and work like a carpenter.

5.  Choose five minutes a day over an hour a week.  This is the way our brains grow–incrementally each day, even as we sleep.  Daily attention to a skill nourishes this process, while more occasional attention to something causes our brain to play “catch-up”.

Ever hear of the 10,000 hour rule?  Yeah … it takes years to get great at something, depending on how often and how much you do it. I don’t use the word “great” lightly, so neither should you.

Want to be a great writer? It’s possible to be great within a few years, maybe, but I know I am going to be working my entire life to get better.

Want to be great at being frugal?  Try each day to be a little better at saving/spending money than you were yesterday.

As a trombone player I am still learning, to this day, and when I look back on my first few years of playing — I will tell you I sucked.

To do anything great, you have to do it, make mistakes, learn, really begin to understand it. And someday, if you stick with it, you’ll be great.

There’s no one who is great at their profession who hasn’t been doing it for at least 5 years.  Name one person. Most have done it for over a decade, and are still looking to improve.

It takes desire.  It takes drive.  It takes lots and lots of doing.

My best advice: don’t get discouraged if you’re just starting out. You are going to suck at first, but if you have fun, you’ll learn to love it, and you will get better.

Find your desire. Do it, don’t just read about it.

A little every day does the trick.  Collectively, over time, you too can be great.  So stop reading, and go do.

“Practice as if you are the worst, perform as if you are the best.”


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