The Secret To World Class Expertise: Work

tony_hawk_barcelonaMastery is about lots of practice, not innate talent. And not just any type of practice but deliberate and focused practice. We’ll show you that how good you want to be at something is about how much of your guts and soul you pour into reaching your goal, not about some God-given gift.

Everyone Works

Forget Harry Potter’s first time playing Quidditch, everyone in the real world who mastered something has worked incredibly hard to get to their level of success.

Researchers studying grandmaster chess players found that each one underwent a decade of intense study. Even Bobby Fischer, one of the world’s youngest grandmasters at 16 underwent nine years of focused, intensive study. And potential has little to do with anything innate: success researcher K. Anders Ericsson noted that “some international chess masters have IQs in the 90s.”

Practice Often And Consistently

Experts will practice at their craft all the time, every day of the week, including weekends. A study looking at the skill of violin players by practice found that the best group of players (as judged by conservatory teachers) practiced 10,000 hours over their lifetime whereas those judged to be average practiced 5,000 hours. A direct statistical relationship was found between practice volume and skill. Innate talent seemed to play little part in resultant skill level.

Michael Jordan was known to be the hardest worker in whatever team he played in. When he picked up baseball, he would work for hours on end with a batting coach to improve his technique, being the first one to the diamond and the last one to leave every day. His Bulls teammates always reported him as working for the longest hours at the gym.

Practice Deliberately, Not Randomly

World-class experts find a new thing to focus on in their regular practice so they can keep on innovating and improving. Professional athletes will practice new tricks and skills to keep ahead of the competition.

Tony Hawk continued to innovate as one of the world’s best skateboarders by inventing almost 100 new tricks throughout his career. He was the first to do a 900 spin on a skateboard, breaking ribs and doing a back in the process. All of his mental focus and practice paid off in the 1999 X Games where he landed the trick on his twelfth attempt.

Those who achieved mastery consistently worked deliberately on certain aspects of skill they were trying to learn, applying consistent repetition. Tiger Woods completely reconstructed his golf swing twice over his career, going through every single aspect of his shot meticulously. To practice deliberately at golf, one must have a set goal in mind (such as hitting the ball a set distance), observe results constantly and continually adjust technique. Simply hitting golf balls won’t make you a master.

Ray Allen, one of the best three point shooters in the NBA always warms up with free throws with a consistent focus on technique. He says he knows when a shot goes wrong because one aspect of his technique that he has continually focused on has not been executed to perfection. By breaking his technique down so meticulously many things become automatic and Ray can notice when something is off balance.

So Work Your Butt Off!

So the answer to mastery: work! If you want to get good at something, and I mean really good at something, you have to work both hard and smart. Don’t work in large volumes unfocused: pick specific things you want to drill down again and again and keep working at them. Also, make sure you don’t stop all work… you have to have the drive to put in all of the hours to achieve mastery! Otherwise without all the work you’ll never reach the level of success you dream of achieving.

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