How Pros Become Pros

5 04 2012

Yesterday evening, my wife and I had the happy occasion to drive an hour south to Syracuse in anticipation of the return of our daughter, Anna, from Scotland.  She flew in at 11:00 PM and we were happily reunited after more than six months’ separation.

During that time, Anna has gone to school and participated in various missionary enterprises in Europe and the Far East.  She’s quite tired at the moment but loving the homestead and visiting her friends.  Life is good.

While we awaited her arrival, we went to one of our favorite haunts, Barnes & Noble.  I finally picked up a book I’d peeked at and wanted for over a year:  Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor-at-Large for FORTUNE magazine.

I’ve mentioned Colvin’s work in previous posts, especially as it relates to the discipline of deliberate practice.  The fundamental finding that Colvin relates in his book is that talent and giftedness, as we know it, are largely a myth.  The data simply does not support the idea that people are “born” to do a certain thing—like Mozart born to write music or Jerry Rice to play football.  What makes world-class performers—pros—what they are is an enormous amount of specifically-focused hard work.

Colvin and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell—in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success–both have shared the data that to become really good at something involves about 10,000 hours of labor in a given field.  This incredible output comes through study, practice and performance.

Focusing on just that one metric, ask yourself this: What thing do I love doing that I’d be willing to devote two hours and forty-five minutes to every day for the next ten years?

People at the top of their fields strive to improve their skills and knowledge continually.  But simply working hard alone doesn’t ensure excellence.  Lots of people work hard and they are okay at what they do.   But they are not spectacularly distinct.  They are not masters of their craft.  I’m sure we can all relate.

Rather, world-class performance involves working in a focused way to develop those areas in your chosen field where you are not proficient.  For example, Tiger Woods will practice swinging his way out of sand traps by dropping a golf ball in the sand, burying it with his foot and then practicing the appropriate swing to get it back onto the fairway or the green.  He doesn’t simply do what he’s good at.  He works at areas in which he doesn’t excel in order that he might.  This is deliberate practice.

Okay, what is your chosen field?  How many hours would you estimate you’ve devoted to it thus far?  Are you prepared to raise the bar, even if nobody around will raise it for you?

Why not raise the bar?  Mastery is a rare thing indeed.  The world looks for people who are outstanding at what they do.

Become a pro.  Start today!

Image Credit




2 responses

5 04 2012
LaDona's Music Studio

One of my piano students today, while I was demonstrating something, said, “I wish I was as good as you.”
Guess what I said? “I’ve put in my 10,000 hours.”
And it’s true. I did the math. Over my life I’ve put in more than 10,000 hours at the piano. Now I’m reaping the rewards.

Awesome timing for this post!

6 04 2012
Christian Fahey

Wow, what timing LaDona! Glad it was a blessing to you.

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