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The Bruce Lee Way of Mastering A New Skill

The Bruce Lee Way of Mastering A New Skill

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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