“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.”
— Albert Einstein
How Can One Master Any Skill Faster?
A genuine question, which most of us scratch our heads around in our race to perform better in our pursuit, isn’t?
You would agree that there is so much to learn out there in the world, and twenty-four hours in a day obviously seem very less to fulfilling our learning requirements.
When time factor is a constant- means only 24-hours, we are only left with one choice:
To increase our speed!
It is so obvious. We have to increase our pace of learning in the limited short amount of time.
But hang on! Don’t assume by simply hurrying up you would be on fast track to learn.
Our primary objective here is to LEARN. And not simply rush through and think that we are learning faster.
Most people get confused by this distinction. They think that if they are doing it speedier, they are learning faster.
No, it is not the case.
You can see the evidence in your own life. In your high school days, you must have tried to cram something on the fast-track. Maybe you would have succeeded to retain that information for some time to crack your examination, but today you won’t remember that crammed stuff.
Therefore, our key objective here is to LEARN– which is a qualitative parameter.
An associated objective with that is: To learn FASTER– which is a quantitative parameter. And you would agree that “FASTER” shouldn’t compromise with the key objective of “LEARNING”.
If you missed above and just focused on the ‘quantity’ over the ‘quality’, then you will end up innocently assuming that you have learned something faster, but in reality, you have to still spend more time to LEARN it.
Now, Let’s Look at the Best Practices To Become An Expert in Any Skill
1. Deliberate Practice- The Gateway to gaining Expertise
Anders Ericsson, a psychologist, and researcher at Florida State University, and the original researcher behind the famous 10,000-hours rule (which was promoted by Malcolm Gladwell in his famous book Outliers), states 3 types of practices, that are used for learning.
a. Naive Practice
b. Purposeful Practice
c. Deliberate Practice.
Naive practice is a general practice that you do mindlessly based on what you know already know (without any effort or focus to improve). This type of practice of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting that it will improve does not work at all. Because:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. ~ Albert Einstein
Purposeful practice is much better. It involves (1) well-defined and specific goals, (2) in a focused manner, (3) with an appropriate feedback system about your mistakes, and (4) with consistent pushing beyond the comfort zone.
It is better than naive practice, as you learn much faster in that.
But, it is only the deliberate practice that opens the doors to mastery for you.
What is this?
Deliberate practice is also known as a gold standard of any practice. This practice has all the elements of the purposeful practice, but it additionally has the element of coaching or teaching added to it, through a clear training program in the established field.
Deliberate practice involves the pursuit of personal improvement via well-defined, specific goals and targeted areas of expertise, as required in purposeful practice, but additionally, it requires a teacher or coach who has demonstrated an ability to help others improve the desired area of expertise — say chess, tennis, or music — and who can give continuous feedback.
“It’s not just a matter of accumulating hours. If you’re doing your job, and you’re just doing more and more of the same, you’re not actually going to get better.”
Ericsson succinctly explains how the inner brain structure and neural circuit changes with deliberate practice in below words:
The main thing that sets experts apart from the rest of us is that their years of practice have changed the neural circuitry in their brains to produce highly specialized mental representations, which in turn make possible the incredible memory, pattern recognition, problem solving, and other sorts of advanced abilities needed to excel in their particular specialties. The more you study a subject, the more detailed your mental representations of it become, and the better you get at assimilating new information.
I loved his wonderful thoughts, when he says:
“There is no reason not to follow your dream. Deliberate practice can open the door to a world of possibilities that you may have been convinced were out of reach. Open that door.”
2. Travel between Learning Zone and Performance Zone.
The second best practice to LEARNING (while ensuring the speed as well) is to constantly travel between learning zone and travel zone.
Learning zone means the time period in our lives when we are focused on learning to improve our skills. Performance zone is the areas when we are just performing the skills that we learn.
The learning zone is when our goal is to improve. Then we do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven’t mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.
That is entirely different from what we do when we’re in our performance zone. In the performance zone our goal is to do something as best as we can, to execute. In this zone, we concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.
One of the key requirements for learning at a faster pace which most highly effective people follow is to continuously travel between the learning zone and the performance zone.
In a wonderful talk by Eduardo Briceno, co-founder & CEO of Mindset Works, a growth mindset training company, he explains how we can get better at things we do care about by citing a real-life implementation as below:
He gives the example of Demosthenes, a political leader, great orator in ancient Greece, and lawyer. In order to become a great orator and a good lawyer, he didn’t always remain in the performance zone. Rather he spent time on learning the skills. He studied long hours about law and philosophy. But he also heard many great speeches to learn and master his public speaking skills.
He had some lisp problem (a minor speech defect), so in order to speak clearly, he used to put stones in his mouth and then practice speaking. He practiced deliberately with greater emphasis on learning in the correct way, and also improve by feedback. This travel between learning zone and performance zone made him learn faster and gain expertise in his field.
While above might seem taking longer to few people. But our objective is to truly master the skill — which is possible by following the above practices. Since these practices will develop strong layers of wisdom in neurocircuits of your brain, through continuous learning and deliberated practice — to serve you for lifetime, so rest assured- whatever time it takes is the optimum and shortest to gain mastery.
Because, as is rightly said:
“Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge.” ~Robert Greene
Hope you find this useful.
(This Article is also published on Medium.com)
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