“A genius! For 37 years I’ve practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!” – Pablo Sarasate
The art of practice is so important, probably the most important aspect to reaching your goals, gaining a new skill, becoming an expert, or even, being labelled a genius.
To get good at anything practice is a prerequisite! Remember when you were a baby, well I suppose you don’t, you didn’t just decide one day to walk and up you were and off you went! You crawled first, even before that you learned depth perception with the aid of the airplane of lies, mashed carrot and broccoli! You learned how far the food was from your face and when to open your mouth. You continued this until you were fed, otherwise you would have gone hungry. The same applies to walking, the reason we are not all rolling around on the floor is because we practiced, and we persevered!
What characteristics do you need for practice?
Practice does, unfortunately, become monotonous. Doing the same thing over and over again becomes boring for anyone. George Leonard in his book Mastery writes about the plateau.
As you can see from the graph the road to success is paved with many plateaus. This is when you feel like you have hit the wall and are, seemingly, unable to move forward. This is when you need to dig deep and to carry on. As long as you ride out the plateau and continue on the path of consistent effort you will be able to gain new skills and rise to new heights.
Let’s say you, like me, struggle to gain weight while training. It was only through practice that I was able to gain 10kgs. I practiced eating the correct number of calories in a day and training 3 times a week. I ate the same things and practiced the same exercises for 12 weeks to reach my goal. Did I get bored, yes, did I want to quit, of course. What helped me get through these moments was the idea that I was not only on the way to reaching my goal but, at the same time, I was gaining new skills along the way. I learned to self-motivate, I learned perseverance, I learned the value of consistency and I was developing great habits. These characteristics are not only vital to mastery, they can also be taken forward to conquer other tasks, defeat limiting self-beliefs or smash any other goal.
What should you Practice?
Goals define what you should practice. Without goals you have no idea what you want to achieve, no plan to get to your desired outcome and no action to get there.
Let’s look again at the example of gaining weight. My goal was to gain 10kgs (this is my outcome). Researching how many calories per day I must eat and what foods are best as well as what exercises to do (this is my plan). Actually eating that amount and training (actioning the research and planning to obtain my desired results). It is important to choose your pursuits wisely. We have limited time on this planet and we need to use our time effectively, we therefore need to think critically about what we spend our time and effort on.
Below are a few frameworks that can be used to define your goals:
(outlined in my post Expectations and How to Manage Them.) Tried and trusted, yet safe and secure.
(it’s just an acronym not an insult). These are for the big goals, the pie in the sky, big dream, seemingly unreachable goals. Double or even triple your income.
Simple, quick and easy way to set goals, for when time might be an issue.
Find a framework that breaks down your goals into manageable chunks. Experiment, find what works for you, your life style, your personality and plays to both your strengths and weaknesses.
How should you practice?
In a word, deliberately. K. Anders Ericsson (psychologist and scientific researcher from Florida State University) outlines the four essential components of deliberate practice: (to paraphrase)
- You need motivation to actually get down and do what needs to be done (motivation = action) and have the view of improving your performance (improved performance = progress).
- Choose something you have, at the very least, a brief understanding of, so you can easily and accurately understand what is needed to be done. (Prior knowledge = fast learning).
- Feedback should be immediately available and informative to track your performance. (What gets measured gets managed).
- Doing the same thing over and over again is the essence of practice.
A modern gentleman is evolving constantly; he knows evolution requires the acquisition of skills. A gentleman aims to master the skills to become what he wants to be because he is sure of what that is. He does nothing half way and commits to becoming better, to evolving. He knows this is not the easy path and that deliberate practice is required to achieve his goals and become the gentleman he is meant to be!