of people look for instant formulae to success, not realizing that when it comes to the path of success, there are no shortcuts. Hard work, a dedicated perseverance towards a goal and regular skill practice is what would get you there. You may be intensely talented but to actually reach the peaks, you need to hone that talent by sheer practice, and by deliberate practice. 1
Be you a sports fan or golf aficionado or not, you must have heard of Ben Hogan’s impeccable record and his surgeon-like precision of a golf swing, and he did this by breaking down the game of gold into small parts – each of which he analyzed and repeatedly practiced till he achieved ultimate mastery. That is the art of deliberate practice.
As Ben Hogan so rightly remarked, “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” We all must ensure we make it a good round…
Deliberate Practice: Identify Your Weaknesses First
The key to deliberate practice is simple and follows the same pattern, till the time success is reached. The first step is to break the overall process down into parts, the second is to identify your weaknesses, the third is to test new strategies for each section, and finally the fourth step is to integrate your learning into the overall process. The fifth step is to repeat! 2
Most people look for immediate results based on nothing more than the human process of natural growth. But for our growth to be deliberate, our practice has to be equally deliberate too! So the key to how to be successful, is a mastering of your skill set.
Think about it this way, if you ever started out by following your heart, and learning a new skill, say dancing – were you able to master it by merely assuming you would? No, right? You’d have to practice your moves, consult a teacher, get to know and then work on correcting your mistakes in theory as well as in practice and then probably do it all over again till you are able to master the moves, the posture, the expression and finally, the body language!
How Deliberate Practice Leads to Great Achievements
Remember that deliberate practice is not putting in some extra time at work or working 60-80 hours weeks. Deliberate practice is when you focus on just one aspect of your work and then start to improve upon that – deliberately and repeatedly, no matter how much time it takes, and that is the most important aspect to how to be successful. Here are a few examples of deliberate practice that famous, and successful people have employed to make themselves better at what they do.
Mozart’s 10 Years of Silence
John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, wanted to know that how much practice it took, in terms of time, before you could produce a masterpiece. So he studied over 500 music pieces composed by 76 different composers and discovered that it took all at least ten years of solid practice before they were able to churn out a masterpiece in music – including Mozart. 3
Kobe Bryant’s 800 Shoots
A story pretty well known in sports circle is that of Kobe Bryant’s deliberate practice. As team trainer Robert recalls it after seeing it firsthand, “Kobe Bryant started his conditioning work around 4:30 am, continued to run and sprint until 6 am, lifted weights from 6 am to 7 am, and finally proceeded to make 800 jump shots between 7 am and 11 am. And then Team USA had practice!” For Kobe, his goal was 800 baskets, the time spent doing it was immaterial… For Kobe, his route to how to be successful was simple – to keep practicing.
A Decade of Practice Under The Masterchef
Jiro Ono is a chef and the owner of an award-winning sushi restaurant in Tokyo and his technique has been the subject of a documentary too. Jiro is no ordinary chef for he has dedicated his life to perfecting the art of making sushi. And he expects the same of his apprentices too if they want to work with him. In fact, each apprentice must master one tiny part of the sushi-making process at a time like how to wring a towel, how to use a knife, how to cut the fish! So much so that one apprentice trained under Jiro for ten years before being allowed to cook the eggs! 4
As a professor of psychology at The Florida State University Anders Ericsson puts it, “the sole reason you aren’t a virtuoso violinist, or an Olympic athlete, or another kind of world-class performer, is that you haven’t engaged in a process called “deliberate practice”.”
Tips To Keep In Mind For Deliberate Practice
Stay Just A Little Above Your Abilities
Think about it this way, you may know how to write a good page or an essay. To go a little above and beyond your current skills, try writing a short story or even a long-from article. Don’t try to go from 0 to 100 in 60 seconds – deliberate practice is not a race – it’s a journey that makes you reach your goal, the perfectionist’s way.
Stay Goal Oriented
Before you try to get better at something, you have to know what it is that you are trying to do. One good way to watch a master or an expert at work – then you have a goal in mind that this is the level of expertise you too want to reach.
Break It Down
Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day – and neither will your mastery in a skill. Whenever you attempt something new or even try to get better at what you already “know” – break it down into smaller parts. Attempt it part by part and master the basics before you attempt the more convoluted parts.
Find A Good Teacher
We cannot be objective about ourselves so if we want to improve ourselves, we need a teacher, guide or friend who can point out our flaws, or missing gaps so that we can improve everywhere we lack. Get someone, be it your teacher or mentor to keep giving you feedback and remember to take criticism constructively. This is very important in you search in how to be successful.
Remember that if you truly want to better yourself and reach 100% proficiency in something, you have to keep trying and keep practicing without bothering about the time or the effort spent. And you have to be patient and persevering about it if you do want to rise above the average and truly master what you so desire to! 5