In the book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of “deliberate practice” to achieve mastery in a field. That is 417 days of practice or roughly 3 hours every day for 3333 days or for 9 years.
There have been recent studies that this may not be true for some fields as much as others, but it is very difficult to dispute the maxim “practice makes a man perfect”.
Personally speaking, I thrive on new things in life. I get bored of doing the same thing again and again. I look for variety in life, to keep it exciting. I did my last job for 5 years. The changing roles and responsibilities in that period helped me keep my interest alive. The younger generation expects this change faster than I did.
We are all getting more impatient, our attention spans are lesser, our need for instant gratification greater. However, it is those who are able to go against these tendencies, who end up doing better in life and attain success. Staying committed in one kind of work, one way of life and relationships at work or in life, certainly helps in building greater expertise, greater value and therefore a better life. Successful startups are one good example of individuals who showed patience and perseverance and stuck to the job.
But how does one build this consistency to stay on in a role?
Practice makes a man perfect – the first step towards success
I have implemented or tried to implement the above quote in my life. Let me take a few examples:
- Music: Like many other people, I wanted to learn playing a guitar around 10 years back, as it was considered sexy. I bought a guitar and practiced it diligently for all of one month. Suffice to say, I still don’t know how to play it!
- Marriage: I will be married for 9 years, in December this year. By now I ought be very good at handling it; my understanding with my wife should be at an all-time high and my marriage should be very smooth. I don’t know how many of you reading this are married, but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. However, I also know for sure that I haven’t “deliberately practiced” to get better at it every day. I have taken it for granted many times and have also not learned from my mistakes.
- Car driving: This is something which I have gotten better at, with practice. I had to practice “safe driving” as part of a course in my last corporate role; and now, I have my 2.5 years old son sitting besides me, watching everything I do and questioning me. I have told him quite a few times that the horn should only be used when there is an emergency on the road. So now, every time I honk, he questions me. Kids learn faster than we realise and I have gotten better at my driving due to this as well. I am now less anxious to get to any place; being late is okay, but being safe is better!
- HR work: Out of 10 years of experience in HR work, I think I may have “deliberately practiced” to get better, maybe, for 6 years. Whenever I have, I have been rewarded with promotions and insane salary increases. At one time, I quadrupled my salary in 2 years through practice, patience, application and building relationships.
- Exercise: I have had an intermittent love affair with exercising till before my 36th birthday. I have gained weight and when I wanted to reduce, have found the will to exercise until my return to the desired fitness levels. This year, however, I realised that losing weight with increasing age is more difficult. For the past three months, I have got up at 4 AM, run at least 5 kms a day as often as I can and stopped drinking alcohol 45 days back. All this has helped me lose weight to the extent I want, but now I want to continue on my journey to being fit all my life. Am I getting better with each run? I am able to run more, faster and increase my target every 10-15 days. It has given me a purpose to get up early in the morning and my quality of life has improved drastically.
All the above examples in my life have taught me that doing something well and consistently, even though the routine may be boring, is important.
The three values for Success
All the tales about people who achieve success have been about deliberate practice, perseverance and consistency. My three takeaways, which I learn from my daily running and exercising, are
- Consistency is the first step: If you are taking up a new activity/role/hobby, Consistency of doing it every day will only help you get better. Don’t worry about the new activity being tough. It is supposed to be; and as you practice, you will get better and grow your skill in it.
- Boredom is a myth: If doing any job / activity is becoming “boring”, it often means that you are not applying your mind to it, not stretching yourself in it and not reinventing the way you do things. Be assured, you have not yet reached the peak performance. So think about it; change your targets, stretch yourself more and you will surely get better at it. This is Deliberate Practice.
- Compete against yourself: We have a natural tendency as humans to compare our lives with our peers. It can cause frustration and disillusionment. Instead, why don’t you compare and compete with your own yesterday’s version? This, gives a greater sense of control, progress, satisfaction and peace of mind! This brings the mind to focus and enables Perseverance.
Consistency is the physical act of repetitive action; Perseverance is the focus by the mind; Deliberate Practice is the application of the Intellect. Body, mind and Intellect – when the three work in unison, you are bound to find success.
Please do leave your comments at the bottom and do share with others if you like this article.