It takes a lot of hard work to become an expert. in addition to reading up on the field that you might want to become an expert in, it takes deliberate practice to produce expert-level performance. Here are some tips for using deliberate practice to propel yourself to expertise.
The first thing you need to remember when it comes to developing expert performance at a given task or in a field of study is that it takes a long time to become an expert. Deliberate practice may be able to help get you there a little faster, but you’re still looking at years to go from being a beginner to becoming a true expert at anything.
Deliberate practice simply means that you are making a conscious effort to get better at a skill. So if you’re trying to become an expert at playing the guitar, for example, you learn the basics and then challenge yourself with progressively harder pieces, taking time to practice each day and listen to experts perform so you can learn from them.
If you’re working on a business skill, you might read up on the technique, look for someone to mentor or coach you and then look for ways to incorporate those skills into your daily life.
The key is not just putting in the hours, but engaging in deliberate exercises in which you are fully attentive and aware of what you are doing and trying to learn. You can’t just go through the motions of singing or painting and expect to improve; you really need to study what you’re doing, practice with an eye toward mastery and keep doing that again and again day after day.
One thing that can help when you’re trying to build a skill and keep intentional practice in mind is to keep a journal. Write about what you’re practicing, what you’re learning and how you’re improving. Taking note of the changes and challenges you’re going through can help you to be more mindful while you are practicing, and to keep you aware of where you’re paying attention and where you might be slacking off or need to put more focus.
One key to continuing to learn and improve even when you already feel like an expert is to practice beginner’s mind. It’s so much more freeing to be a beginner because, as Zen master Shunryu Suzuki explains, “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Experts know how things are going to work and the way things are supposed to happen. Beginners are more open to whimsy, alternative ways of thinking and doing things. They ask more questions and have more interesting answers.
The more you can embrace the attitude of a beginner, no matter how much of an expert you may be in your field, the better your performance will be.
That’s because a beginner doesn’t look too far ahead; he takes one step at a time. She’s persistent, questioning, creative, better able to be in the moment and less frozen by fear of failure.
You don’t forget the things you know when you are in beginner’s mind, but you do try to look at what you know in a different way, to continue asking questions and going further than your current knowledge can take you.
Yo-Yo Ma has famously noted that he’s probably played the cello for 50,000 hours, yet he also says, “I’m always learning.” (Michelangelo said it, too: “I am still learning.”)
Or, as John Wooden put it, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
There is no end to learning, no pinnacle of expertise. Remember that, and you can continue building your expertise through deliberate practice for the rest of your life.
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