If you think you've missed your chance at being an expert in a particular field, then you can rethink your view, writes Kathy Sierra because unless you are physical impaired, you CAN succeed in your dreams. And what's great is that it is never too late. You just need determination and perseverance.
The big difference between those of us who are simply amateurs rather than expert in a particular field is not the genetic gift that passed us by, but sheer hard work and dedication says Kathy.
If you've ever wanted to be a pianist, great golfer, dressage horse rider or linguist, it's not a natural talent that you need (although that helps) and to have started at the age of three, but the sheer determination to keep going when it gets frustratingly tough at the beginning stages. Only a very small proportion of us have a genetic gift in a field, but we can ALL achieve a high level of expertise if we just put our mind to it. And when we succeed at doing something quite well, we shouldn't just repeat that, but stretch ourselves beyond and investigate new and better ways. This is what makes the difference. Just repeating the nice bit because we feel that we can do it well doesn't make us an expert. It's working on the boring parts, the foundations and baseline fundamentals that makes the difference.
Kathy Sierra's chart shows clearly how perseverance and dedication to exploring new ways helps make experts.
Kathy also extracts from The New Brain by Richard Restak quoting Ericsson:
"For the superior performer the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance. That's why they don't find practice boring. Each practice session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time."
Now this is the key thing that I want to pick up on. The most important thing about trying to improve by practicing is HOW we practice and not 'how much'. We need to explore new ways of doing the activity and not get stuck in the same old groove. Repetition for the sake of it in any task without thought, be it violin playing (my own passion) or swinging a golf club, will only en-grain our method (or defective method) even further. We get better at being bad. But by thinking about HOW we do things, helps us break faulty moulds and move on. So this takes thought, and by doing so we're probably using different parts of our brain and so we may fatigue quickly. When this happens we should quit for a while and do something else, otherwise we will mindlessly copy what we've been doing, and probably stiffening and fixing in a faulty method. Come back to it fresh and think as you proceed. An approach of 'little and often' will be more successful than just the occasional lengthy stint that exhausts us. It's how we practice that's important.
You can start doing any new activity at any age. (I started playing the violin at 53 and it's my intention to perform more than proficiently.) You still have decades of time to enjoy yourself, and what more can you ask for than doing what you love most and stretching your abilities? We may not hit the concert platform, or the US Masters, but we can enjoy a high level of performance if we go about it the right way.
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