People & Culture
2 minute read

Learn about expertise from a a successful Athlete, Dancer, Musician

Rock climbing

What makes people successful in their field? Innate ability? Luck? Good coaching? Repeated practice? Early on in life we learn to believe that the most successful get there because they have some innate ability. That and persistent practice (the 10,00 hours principle)…But that’s not quite true…

I remember as a child at school we were all asked in P.E. to swim under water for as long as we could. Most people got around half way down the pool. The best swimmers got close to a full length. Up stepped David and dived into the pool, swam two lengths and popped up barely out of breath. How did he do it? We put it down to a 'good set of lungs' or the fact that 'he's always been a good swimmer'.

As we grow up we are increasingly told that practice makes perfect. Do something often enough and you will get good at it. Not quite....

If a bad behaviour is repeated, it will become the norm

Repeated practice alone is not enough. In fact, repeated practice can make someone worse!

We all know of very experienced drivers who still forget to indicate or drive too quickly. If bad practice is repeated it becomes the norm.

So how do we ensure hard graft is positive and not a recipe for ingrained bad habits?

The answer is practice has to be purposeful. This means being conscious of the errors we are making by receiving feedback (either internal or external) and working diligently to correct these as we go along (before they become habits that are hard to undo).

People with a persistent mindset welcome and seek out criticism

Successful Athletes, Dancers, Musicians and Singers have a persistent mindset. They can not only take criticism, they actively seek feedback at every opportunity and work on their areas of weakness.

People with this purposeful mindset typically fare well in any task that requires persistence because in the process of practice they develop resilience.

Most people who take on a task find a technique that works and keep using it then get frustrated when it stops working and eventually give up. Purposeful learners adapt their technique using trial and error (or assistance from a coach) until a new technique works. They will continue to do this each time they hit a wall.

So next time you hit a wall when you're learning something new, stop, get feedback, adapt and you'll be an expert in no time.