Most of us never realize that anything we wish to be good at, we can be good at over time. Many of us waste time wishing, wanting, hiring others, or purchasing products to make us better at something. With the exception of learning materials (books and special courses), most of these measures will leave you no better off than when you started. So let’s say you want to improve at math… you have never been good at it before, what do you do to get better, how can you come to master something you know nothing about?
Step 1. Believe in the process.
The first step to any personal growth or improvement is belief in the process of hard work and practice. You don’t even need to believe in yourself or your own abilities, but you HAVE to believe that many others before you have improved their skills through hardwork and determination; you have to believe that countless people have achieved the impossible or become successful despite adversity. It is impossible to deny, if you do even a small amount of research, that practice makes people better and that with enough dedication some people are able to turn that dedication into massive success and accomplishment. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Henry Ford: these people all started out with little more than a dream and a supreme dedication to their vision and the power of hard work. Even if you don’t think you can something, believe that the process of hard work will make you become the type of person who can.
Step 2. Study.
If you decide you want to learn something, get better at something, or improve a skill, the second step should involve studying, planning, practicing, and more studying. The desire to improve is step one, and once we have identified what we want to develop its time to start studying. We have to pick an aspect of the trade/skill/characteristic that we wish to improve and start learning as much as we can about it: read other’s stories about how they achieved success in the same fields, read books and articles from experts in the field, watch videos on the topic, ask experts or attend seminars when possible. Imagine you are writing a report in school: you will need to learn as much as you possibly can about this topic, and then its time to plan.
Step 3. Plan
Planning your practice and daily actions is often an overlooked component of improving at something. Sure, jumping into the game is better than sitting on the sidelines, but if we don’t even know how to play the game we won’t have much fun. After we understand what others have done, and once we understand what the experts recommend and tell us about our potential skill, its time to start figuring out how to develop our knowledge or skill. Creating schedules, weekly or daily goals, figuring out logistics, and planning for contingencies are all a natural part of the process to mastery. Practice is great, and it’s a necessary part of the process, but smart practice is always better than aimless practice.
Step 4. Practice
Now that you believe in the process, you studied the game, and you planned exactly how YOU are going to master the game its time to get out there and do it. Whatever you decided you needed to master… now its time to hold yourself accountable to make those things happen. Do you need a trainer? Do you need to practice 2-3 hours each day? Do you need to wake up early every morning to get your practice done? Now that you have considered these questions and made a plan you just have to stick to the plan: get the trainer, practice each day, or get up early every day. You already have your plan, just stick to it and get it done. Practice can’t be replaced; no matter what you read you will never be able to apply it consistently until you have practiced applying it enough that it happens without effort or thought. Until you can do the skill with your eyes closed you haven’t mastered it, not yet.
- Evaluate progress, Study, Plan, Practice…AGAIN.
So you found your skill, you studied your skill, you planned your path to improvement, and you did your best to follow your action plan, but you still want to be better, or maybe you didnt even get close your goals. Now you just repeat steps 2-4 over again. You study, learn from the experts, make new plans for improvement, implement your new plans with practice and action, and observe the results.
The path to mastery is a very simple, though its not an easy one. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of work, a lot of practice, a lot of persistence, a positive attitude and belief in the process, and a lot of time to master any skill. You need to be prepared to do a lot of work. If anyone ever tells you they have a secret formula that will change your life or make you an expert at a skill they are, quite simply, lying to you. There is no path to instant success, it is a road paved with hard work, adversity, and consistent daily action. The most important thing that determines if you will achieve your goals or not, is your commitment to daily and focused action. If you spend 1 day focused on your task and 3 days partying it up, its going to take you a long time to get where you want to go.
Try to imagine mastery like a scientist in the lab. The scientist has no bias towards the laws of the universe; he doesn’t believe in magic or tricks; the scientist believes in only the evidence he can see himself. Once the scientist sees evidence that something new could be discovered he starts learning everything he can about the theories and laws that govern the evidence, next he creates experiments and test, then he runs the tests and examines the results, he uses this data to form new experiments, etc., etc. After enough testing and experimenting it will eventually become clear if the theory was correct or not. If it was correct then a new law is created, but if he was wrong, then he goes back to re-examine his theory and create a new one. Thats science, and thats what you have to do to master anything. Dont believe the universe has already decided your fate, be the scientist: run into the world, test your data, prove your theory and write your own laws. if you become like the mad scientist in the laboratory, you can master anything.