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Learn The Secret to Becoming An Expert At Anything

Aug 17, 2007
What happens when you step off the edge of a thirty story building's rooftop with nothing to keep you in the air? Gravity drops you like a rock. It's an immutable law. This law will never be broken.

Here's another one. Energy can't be created or destroyed; it may be transformed from one form to another, but the total amount of energy can never change.

You may be wondering what this has to do with becoming an expert at something. Read on, you'll begin to see what I'm getting at here.

Those laws are straight from the hard science of physics. They can't be broken. Similarly, the soft sciences also have laws that can't be broken. Learning, motivation, initiative, and emotional intelligence are from the soft science of psychology. But just like physics, psychology has immutable laws too.

So the very first thing you need to do if you want to become an expert at anything is to learn what the laws are regarding the endeavor your trying to become an expert in. Then you'll need to resolve to never pointlessly try to break these laws. Instead, you'll need to learn how to work within their very specific frameworks.

The amount of time you spend working on a skill is directly related to how good you become at that skill. There are no shortcuts. This is soft science law. It's immutable. As sure as you'll fall to your death if you step off a skyscraper rooftop, you cannot become an expert at anything if you don't put the time in. It's really that simple.

In the groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence the author Daniel Goleman cites a study done where Olympic stars and accomplished musicians were analyzed to determine why there are younger and younger people become so highly accomplished in their chosen fields. The answer is that they start practicing at younger and younger ages. The top determining factor for their success was the number of hours they spent practicing. So even people who are born with gifts need to put their noses to the grindstone and practice till it hurts in order to become world-class.

A book that anyone who finds this article even mildly interesting (and if you've gotten this far in an online article, that's you) should consider reading is called "Mastery - The Keys To Success" by George Leonard. He explains how the brain learns, why we reach plateaus in developing new skills, and how to become a true master at anything. His explanation of how our minds develop mastery over a skill makes perfect sense and is fascinating.

Simply put, when we start off doing a new thing, we have to consciously think about it and its related parts, all in a deliberate and slow way. Through repetition and practice, this conscious and inefficient thought process gets handed off to our subconscious which operates much more quickly, effortlessly and flawlessly. When this happens, we start to master the skill that's been handed off. Practice it enough, and the skill becomes second nature and eventually an expert. This holds true for physical things such as playing an instrument or martial arts, as well as for intellectual things such as writing, painting or acting.

Malcolm Gladwell in his recent book Blink explains this same thing when he explains how we increase our chances of quickly making correct decisions when we've become habituated to the situation in which we're in that requires a snap decision.

In "Mastery - The Keys To Success", George Leonard explains that our Western society incorrectly values the quick fix, the million dollar secret, the painless and easy way through, or the get rich quick scheme. We're all focused on the goal, at the expense of the process. From the corporate world to school or sports, we're all so caught up in the results, that we miss point. We miss the juicy part of life, which is the progression, the development.

And to value the process over the result is where mastery can be found. The secret to becoming an expert is to learn to enjoy the learning and practice. To find intrinsic worth and joy in the process, to be okay with being a fool while you learn, to get knocked down ten times but get back up eleven times as a famous karate saying goes, is to be on the path to mastery.

There are no shortcuts. And to my knowledge there are no other paradigms that work so effectively in becoming an expert, regardless of what you're trying to become an expert in.

If you're doing something because you're driven by your fear or ego, then you're definitely on the wrong track, and you'll probably never reach expert status.

If you're driven by fear or ego happiness will surely elude you. You'll never find it easy to stick with something, and you'll never become an expert. Instead, if you're driven by the love of the process, the shear enjoyment of the doing, you won't be able to help but become an expert, because you'll end up putting in the time necessary to become great. That's where the magic happens. That's how you will find yourself waking up one day and saying, "Wow, I really am an expert at this now, how did that happen?"

Remember, the more time spent doing something, the better your chances are of becoming an expert in it, and to successfully and consistently put in the time, you'll need to learn how to love the process, not the goal.
About the Author
Jason OConnor owns and operates TheNetGazette.Net
http://www.thenetgazette.net/, a Web business newsletter.
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