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On Deliberate Practice

In both books, So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise, the authors wrote extensively about deliberate practice; the idea that you always have to be working outside your comfort zone – usually with an expert – to get better at your craft. But what if you don’t have an expert at hand? How do you ensure you’re always challenging yourself?

The simple answer is to always do things even when you’re totally clueless about how to do them. When we were kids, this idea was really easy because we were clueless about nearly everything. Yet somewhere along the way we lost the comfort we had with being a beginner at things. If you really think about it, the road to mastery is lined with many fall-on-your-face moments.

Statements like “It’s not my forte,” and “I’m not really good at this kind of thing…” are really good at killing moments that have the potential to lead to growth. So whenever you’re tempted to say something like that, stop, take a few days to engage yourself in the activity that’s not your forte, challenge yourself and see where it goes.

Of course you’re going to need some sort of guidance…but that guidance doesn’t have to come from a single person. You could glean the wisdom of the ages through reading books, watching practice youtube videos or other forms of media that modern technology has made accessible.You’re also going to need to have a way to assess whether your practice session was a success. That means putting into place specific targets that you could measure your performance against.

The main thing to remember is you don’t want to be in a place where you’re so good at something you can do it in your sleep, because that just means you’ve gone stagnant, and that usually means you really do need a mentor to show you what the next step is.

So how are you applying deliberate practice in your life? Leave a comment below, or tweet me @ahechoes ….

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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.

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