Awhile back I went to our weekly Friday morning Book Club. This is something some friends and I started a few years ago at work, and have continued now that we are retired. At the time we were reading John Maxwell’s excellent book Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace.
During one point in our discussion we were talking about moving out of our comfort zones, and we started talking about what is required to improve a particular skill. For example, one person is currently taking both piano and golf lessons to improve their mastery of those skills. Another person is a painter, and talked about getting feedback from his wife on his paintings. At times, when the feedback on a painting has not been positive, he has completely painted over what he has created, and started from scratch, working to improve. I can relate with my writing. I’ll write an article or movie review and then send to my wife (and editor) for review. In both instances, it’s humbling to ask for feedback but it usually results in raising the bar. I have a friend who is writing a book, not only does she ask to meet with me and my wife regarding her progress, but she also puts herself on a timeline in order to accomplish her goals. Anytime we look to improve a skill or task, we will need to possess and demonstrate personal discipline.
In our discussion, we also talked about Tiger Woods, who has won five Masters championship and fifteenth major championships overall. We talked about the incredible work ethic and discipline Woods demonstrated to come back from numerous knee and back surgeries when absolutely nobody expected him to.
John Maxwell states:
“The common denominator of success is discipline – forming the habit of doing things that the vast majority of people neglect to do. Individuals don’t accidentally stumble upon greatness. Even those who suddenly gain fame have usually worked hard all of their lives to become an “overnight success.” What we do on some great occasion depends on who we already are; and who we are is the result of previous years of discipline.”
This reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hours Rule” in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, one of my favorite books. He wrote about elite performers, such as the Beatles, putting in 10,000 hours of practice before achieving greatness.
I remember playing basketball in high school. We had four high schools in town. Many of the guys on those school’s basketball teams also played other sports such as football or baseball. I remember our coach telling us that the way to really improve in basketball was to play each day in the summer over at the local university against players better than us. And it worked. Those who focused on other sports, or took the summer off, found themselves behind the guys who had honed their skills in hot gyms in the summer against players that were better than them.
What skill are you looking to improve in? It may be related to your vocation, such as public speaking, or a technical skill. Or, it could be a hobby such as golf or playing the piano like my friend. Or perhaps you want to be able to run a marathon? Regardless of what the specific skill or task you would like to improve in, the question is what are you doing to get and improve those skills? If you are not doing anything now, what is your plan?
To grow, you will need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, perhaps by taking a course to build your knowledge, or by committing to consistent practice. Jeff Goins in his book The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do writes that practice is essential to achieve excellence. Perhaps you aren’t pursuing excellence, like Goins states, or you don’t aspire to be an elite performer like Gladwell writes about. However, if you are looking to get better in a skill or task, you are going to need to have a disciplined approach – make yourself better and stay on track. What is your approach?