How do you become good at something? Most psychologists agree it’s repetition that makes something easy for us to do and that’s borne out by a study of our brain, which fires neurons in a repetitive way, called habituation.
But when we do something so repetitively that we don’t enjoy it any more, it becomes boring.
Unless we have a particular taste for it, or it keeps our interest. A friend of mine has had the hobby of building model cars for many years. It would bore me to tears, but he absolutely loves it, and cannot wait to get his hands on new model cars to build. Even though he has over 150 already!
What makes it so he can really enjoy that hobby? And how could we become good at something through practice without boring ourselves rigid?
Well, it’s been proved that we can become good at something if:
1) We really want to achieve it
2) We believe we really can achieve it
3) We enjoy trying to achieve it
And that third point is the real biggee!
Most people, when they are trying to improve or develop a skill, really want it and believe they can achieve it. However, if they practice on and on and on, and don’t achieve it, then most start to give up, eventually coming to a halt and leaving it. The trying to do it is the everyday reality of practice. Trying is exactly the opposite of achieving. Trying is actually NOT achieving it.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about research carried out at the Berlin Academy of music. The researchers studied three categories of violin players: the stars, the good performers and those who would end up teaching but not performing.
It turned out that the number one predictor of which category the violinist would fall into was the number of hours they tried and practiced.
The future teachers had practiced up to four thousand hours. The good performer, up to eight thousand hours. And the stars? Each one had practiced over ten thousand hours. According to the author, ten thousand hours was the magical number that people need to practice before they become stars at anything. That equates to over five years of full-time work to become a star. And that’s while learning and practicing along the way.
This means you had better start enjoying something you are practicing. You’ll simply not spend ten thousand hours practicing something you won’t enjoy. Find your passion first. Then practice. You’ll not practice long enough if you don’t enjoy it.
Make sure that you’re persistent in what you enjoy. That way, you’ll enjoy spending the time it will take to master it.
Head of Training
(Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young)
Francis Bacon wrote, “Reading makes a full man” and Emerson wrote, “It’s a good reader that makes a good book”.
Reading is one of the core skills of any good communicator. Our trainers will often ask delegates how many books have they got in their personal library, and they are often surprised by how few books on the subject of management or leadership the delegates have got.
Reading is listening in action, giving you time to give thoughtful attention to what the author is suggesting and helps you remain open to everything that is being offered. It helps your creative juices, because it opens up opportunities you hadn’t considered before.
To decide what your reading requirements are, go to the core of your job; what are you actually paid to do? Then ask yourself:
What must I read to keep up-to-date with current initiatives and ideas within my industry?
What should I read?
What might I read?
An IT consultant, for example, must read certain journals, magazines and books to keep abreast of new developments. They should read certain articles about related fields, like new software developments. They might read items about wider-ranging possibilities, such as the future role of IT in business.
Ask yourself what you need to, or must, read to do your job adequately and to improve in your role. Does your reading list match this? And if you say you don’t have the time, think how much time you spend commuting on the train or in the car. If you travel by train, put the paper down and read an article about your field. If driving to work, hire or buy CDs that relate to your field and listen to them.
What have you read in the last six months that has led to you improving your existing job?
Think of your current job as a short-term contract. As well as fulfilling today’s role, you ought to be thinking about preparing for tomorrow’s job, developing your future capability as well as your current competence. And reading stores of information and ideas is an important element in that process of self-development and self-education.
The only way to lay the foundtion for success in your and your team’s future is by constant commitment to continual learning and development in your field of expertise and beyond.
But how can you encourage all your team to be their best and spend time on this most vital of skill development?
Here are some tips to enable you to be on top of your game and motivate others to share that philosophy too:
1) Encourage your team to value, pursue and utilise knowledge, skills and new technologies: Most of what you learned five years ago is now out of date. If you don’t continually learn new ideas, you fall behind those who do.
2) Take advantage of any in-company training programmes, night classes, university lunch and learns and professional organisations’ educational offerings. Look on their websites to keep aware of what is being offered. Contact your local college and see what new stuff they are teaching, either for free or low-cost.
3) Subscribe to newsletters, magazines, ezines and communications that are in your field. Copy snippets to read later when you have time.
4) Network with affiliates and colleagues in your field and keep them up to date with new ideas in your field, so they will do the same for you.
5) Survey and visit customers to find out current and future needs that your business can supply.
6) Watch your competition for new products and services they are developing so that you are up to speed with what is going on in your industry
7) Borrow, buy or start a library of business and personal development CDs. Share these around the team, learn from them, then have 10 minutes sessions updating each other with what you have learned in your spare time or on your way to work in the car or on the train.
8 ) Become ‘industry-watchers’ so you can, as a team, develop knowledge of the latest developments in your fields, and so share that expertise throughout the department.
There are many ways to become expert in your field, and a commitment to continual learning and development is just the start.