Focused practice is one of the best ways to learn and master a new skill. Legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee (1940-1973) used this approach to great effect in building his skills. Lee’s technique is all about in-depth practice. Bruce Lee put it in these terms: “I don’t fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks. I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
1. Seek Out New Environments To Grow Faster
Though he was born in the United States, Lee spent much of his early life in Hong Kong. That meant he faced a significant challenge when he decided to move back to the USA as a young man. To grow his skills, Lee enrolled at the University of Washington and worked as a waiter to pay his way through university. Lee’s decision to study drama at university gave him a strong foundation for his acting career.
Apply this skill to your career by looking for new environments where you can challenge yourself to grow. Is there a new project you can join? Is there a newly formed work committee you can join? Expand your expertise and take on new challenges.
2. Commit To Learning A Skill like Lee
Lee’s commitment to learning martial arts is well-known. His studies began as a teenager and continued throughout his career. Before he started to innovate and create new forms, Lee focused his effort on learning the basic techniques for years.
You can apply this approach to your career in two ways:
Study and work toward a “black belt”: Keep studying and work toward advanced certifications in your field. If everyone has the entry level certification in your department, look for an advanced certification that will deepen your skills further (e.g. earn the Six Sigma Black Belt from ASQ).
Do regular drills to keep your skills sharp: In learning martial arts, Lee performed the same moves over and over again. Look for ways to polish your performance in the same way. Can you learn how to run meetings better? Or perfect your sales presentation so that you close more sales? Practice makes perfect even in your professional career.
3. Deepen Your Understanding through Teaching
Starting in 1959, Bruce Lee started to teach martial arts to students. By teaching his techniques, he learned how to go deeper. He learned how to view his skills and techniques as a system and communicate that to others. You can share your technical knowledge with others and also pass along what you know in a variety of ways.
For example, sharing technical knowledge can lead to helping your team members. If you are a highly skilled Excel user, offer to leave a “lunch and learn” session where you demonstrate your favorite time saving approaches.
Also, once you understand a skill consider putting the ideas into writing. For background on how to make complex skills easy to understand, I suggest taking a look at the For Dummies books. That book series does great work in making complex topics easy to manage.
4. Seek Out Clear Feedback To Improve
Bruce Lee’s commitment to improving his skills meant seeking feedback. In martial arts, feedback is instant and impossible to avoid. Bruce tries a kick or a punch and he could immediately see the results. Seconds later, he could try another kick in a slightly different way. Performing music or creating computer code also offer instant feedback on your efforts.
If you are not in a field where immediate feedback is needed, try these techniques. First, act on past feedback. At some point in the past, you have been given feedback on how to improve. You may have forgotten to put it into action. Start by putting that feedback (e.g. showing up on time at the office or taking care of household errands faster) into action. Once you do that, you will be more likely to receive more feedback.
Second, ask clarifying questions about criticism or negative feedback. Feedback is useless if you don’t understand it at work or elsewhere. If the feedback is confusing, ask for clarification. Consider asking for a suggestion on how you can improve next time.
Featured photo credit: Bruce Lee/Guerrilla Freelancing via guerrillafreelancing.com