On Changing Yourself


The following is a summary of the article by Geoff Colvin found here.

Success is not based on natural talent. It is a choice.

Studies of accomplished individuals show that few of them achieved anything great before the individuals started intense training.

What separates high achievers from everybody else is something researchers call "deliberate practice." Deliberate practice is a set of elements that, when combined, form a powerful system to improve performance.

The elements are:
1) DP is designed to specifically improve performance. The idea is to constantly stretch yourself beyond your current abilities. This requires you to identify those parts of performance that need to be improved, then work on them. For example, Tiger Woods drops golf balls into a sand trap, steps on them, then hits them out.

Great performers isolate very specific aspects of their game and work on just those things until they get better, then they move on to the next thing.

2) DP must be repeated a lot. But you must choose an activity that is just beyond your current capabilities. Then repeat. For example, Ted Williams would hit baseballs until his hands bled.

3) Get regular feedback from somebody who knows what they're talking about.

4) Expect a mental exercise. This is not mindlessly hitting tennis balls against a wall. It is identifying and focusing only on unsatisfactory areas and working to improve them. Famous violin teacher Leopold Auer told his students, "Practice with your fingers, and you need all day. Practice with your mind, and you will do as much in 1-1/2 hours."

5) It's hard. Seeking out what you're not good at puts you in an uncomfortable spot. But overcoming those situations makes the difference. The fact that it's hard will prevent most people from doing this, which will set you apart.

6) Before work: Set goals. Poor performers set no goals. Mediocre performers set general goals that are focused on a good outcome (win an order, finish a proposal). Excellent performers set goals that improve their own process of reaching outcomes.

7) During work: Observe yourself. Novice runners think about anything that gets their mind off of running. Elite runners focus intensely on their bodies by counting breaths and strides to maintain set ratios. At work it's called metacognition, or knowledge about your own knowledge. Top performers do this as part of their routine.

8) After work: Average performers tell themselves they did fine, great or poorly. The best performers judge themselves based on what they're trying to achieve. You must select a metric that is just beyond your current limits.

So where do you start? By asking what you truly want, and what you truly believe. The more you want something, the easier it will be to keep at it when it's difficult. And the more you believe that if you put in the work you will eventually perform at a high level, the better chance you have of making it real.


    thanks for the post--appropo for someone in my situation right now. i think popular belief is that great performers somehow perform on intuition or out of their bodies rather than their minds because the task has become so ingrained in their being over time....but now that i think about my own past performances, it's true that the mind is never disengaged. it just knows, intuitively, what to be focused on.

    yes, awesome post. those who are disciplined can keep these activities up consistently, even though they seem monotonous and tedious. however, as a coach once told me, you have to "prepare to be lucky". you want to be ready when an unassuming opportunity arises.

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