Archive for October, 2013

How to be excellent Pt. 3

October 29, 2013
Do what you love

Do what you love

Most of us would like to be great at something. Now that we know how other achievers have done it, what can we do to join them?

One approach is to choose a field and practice for 10,000 hours. In your ideal profession, 40 hours a week over five years gives 10,000 hours.

Other pursuits can be more difficult. Sports, art, writing, parenting – just to name a few; if you’re not able to do them full time then logging the hours will take longer. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, particularly when you enjoy the process. Or, if you don’t need to be the best, you can enjoy it without the need to master anything.

Or we can look at the question in reverse. Where have you already logged 10,000 hours of practice? What is it that you do really well? What tasks do you perform so well that people ask, ‘How did you do that?’


How to be excellent Pt 2

October 22, 2013


When we aim to be excellent, is it nature or nurture that helps us most, or perhaps a bit of both?

While we don’t have to rely solely on genetics to be good at something, I do believe we have natural aptitudes which make us all different. If we’re good at something and enjoy it we’re inclined to keep doing it. When we do something we love, we can get lost in the experience and often fail to notice the passing of time.

This is wonderfully empowering. It suggests we have the remarkable capacity to influence our own outcomes. But that’s also daunting. Practice may be the most important ingredient in achieving excellence but, as we know from our own experience, it can be the most difficult.

If we want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past our comfort zone, as well as dealing with setbacks and failures. Even when it’s something we love, striving to get to the next level can be a challenge. It can lead to physical and emotional fatigue, and eventually burnout.

Perhaps that’s why we admire sportspeople, musicians, artists and business people at the top of their game. We admire the dedication, perspiration, choices, motivation and self-control; characteristics we’d like to improve in ourselves.

How to be excellent at anything

October 15, 2013
10,000 hours to mastery

10,000 hours to mastery

Years ago I heard an interview with Paul McCartney. He was telling a story of a woman who wanted to play the piano but at middle age believed she had left it too late. His advice was a simple; start today and you’ll be an expert in ten years. That’s a powerful thought.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. He concluded that it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but how hard we’re willing to work to achieve it.

If we accept that, then we’re capable of things we didn’t believe possible.

This means it’s possible to build a skill in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past our comfort zone, rest and repeat. After 10,000 hours practice you’ll achieve expertise in any complex domain.

I used to believe that talent was driven by our genetic makeup. The theory of practice suggests that’s not the case. Genetics can help: the 200 cm basketballer, the 50 kg jockey or the musician with musically talented parents.

Swap the basketballer with the jockey and they will struggle! However, there are many ‘ordinary’ people who have made it through hard work and persistence. Likewise, talented people who aren’t prepared to work hard aren’t guaranteed success.

What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? It’s easy to say ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. That’s true but it’s not always possible to make your passion your vocation, it might not pay the bills!

This is where we find passion and balance. If you’re passionate about something it can be a great outlet and balance to your busy life. Something to look forward to, that’s satisfying and rewarding, that you can plan and enjoy. Ten thousand hours may be a lifetime but if you love it, who cares?

Work is important

October 7, 2013
Give your best

Give your best

It’s my belief that humans are hard wired for achievement. Of course life is more than a title on a business card, but your career can be an important part of a happy, balanced and successful life.

Work provides money to live and shapes many important life decisions: where we live, how we live, our interests, opportunities, and the time we spend with our family.

Some work long and hard for money and progression. Others work enough to pay the bills, preferring to spend as much time as possible with their family and personal pursuits.

Some work for the sense of accomplishment, others for the opportunity to contribute or give back. Some chase the big salary; others volunteer their time and talents.

There is no right answer.

Work can be a great source of satisfaction and achievement. Some people are energised and excited about the challenge, others just marking time to get through the day. No matter what your outlook, work consumes enormous amounts of time, energy and focus.

It’s easy to leave home early and stay back late. Sometimes it’s inspiring when you’re working on a breakthrough project, sometimes you just resent it. Often it’s necessary when you’re building a career; when you want to shine.

Being your best at work isn’t something you just do for the organisation, it’s something you do for yourself. Work can be entertaining, rewarding and fun. It can provide opportunities and a wonderful lifestyle. Being great at work can provide a tremendous feeling of achievement.

Work to live or live to work; success and happiness lie between the extremes.

When you’re happy and inspired at work the positivity carries over to all areas of your life. You go home happier, with more energy and in a mind set of making things happen.
That’s key to achieving balance; to show up fully for all areas of your life.

No matter what your job, you can strive to be the best at it. Be positive in a negative world. Try hard. Be part of the solution. Make an impact and set yourself up for a happier and more fulfilling life.