HOW TO GET BETTER AT ANY THING
Copyblogger is one of my regular reads for how to make my blog better. He twitted recently on how to be a better writer.
I want to add three thoughts to his advice.
First point: Studies show that practice improves performance, but only if it is perfect practice. Want to improve your ability to shoot basketballs into a hoop? One study had people actually practice, while others only visualized. Some of the visualizers did better than those out on the court, but some didn’t improve at all whether practicing on the court or in their heads. Further investigation revealed the visualizers who visualized every shot as a perfect shot were the ones who improved the most.
Second point, willy-nilly practice gets willy-nilly results. The experts call not just for practice but for deliberate practice. Psychologist Anders Ericsson developed this concept, he believes there are three components to this concept:
- The practice follows a specific routine.
- The routine is repeated regularly and often.
- A feedback method is attached to the routine so progress can be measured and corrections made. Rating scales are useful for this purpose. Almost anything can be rated. My feeling thermometer is a rating scale for emotions. In terms of skill building a three level rating works well. First level = bumbling beginner; second level = master of the basics; and third level = expert performer.
Third point: Talent matters. Luck is a talent and other sources of luck play a part in reaching success. Translated into improving a skill this means knowing your strengths and have reasonable expectations. Sadly two things erode everyone’s ability to see personal strengths. The nay sayers in our lives and the “You-can-do-anything-you-want” gurus. Both might have a hold on the truth about abilities, both might also be delusional.
My biggest nay sayer in my life was an English teacher who only wanted to help me spell and punctuate as most other people did. He predicted I would never pass Freshman English and said I would flunk out of college my first semester. I didn’t and such stories of overcoming nay-sayers abound.
Sadly the stories of those who are promised all if and fail are less talked about and are just as numerous, perhaps more so. Even sadder is that those whose talent, luck and passionate effort didn’t bring success too often end up blaming themselves. Not helpful. Fortunately for me, while I never expected to be a successful writer, I loved the act of writing and so wrote for the pleasure I found in writing. My parents also stressed the importance of finding pleasure in your work as well as your life. When the computer came along, some of my learning disability related spelling and punctuation problems were overcome and I ultimately became a published author–not a best seller, but better than I ever expected.
So practice, get real feedback about your strengths and weakness, follow your passions for the joy they provide and count yourself among the very lucky if financial success follows. Stay stron.