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This False Belief Maybe The Reason Why You Aren’t Successful Yet

This False Belief Maybe The Reason Why You Aren’t Successful Yet

We very often call successful people ‘talented’. We somehow believe that they are good at what they do because they have the talent for it, and that some people were simply born with talent that guarantees success.

Some even go so far as to say that if you’re not talented enough, you should just give up: maybe you’re just not cut out to be a tennis player/pianist/painter—stop wasting your time!

But this is a very toxic idea.

While it’s true that talent maybe an advantage for some people, successful people don’t rely on talent alone. They have done lots of other things that you don’t know of to achieve success.

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So, before you blame your mediocrity on your lack of talent, realize what’s actually getting in your way may be you yourself.

What we think of as natural talent is just the result of having started practice early.

Talent doesn’t automagically make you good at something, whether it is playing tennis or solving maths problems. Even if you do have the talent, if you don’t use it properly, it will only be wasted.

And since talent alone does not determine success, there are ways you can succeed even if you think you’re not talented. Indeed, you can become talented—if ‘talented’ means better than many others at what you do.

The reason why successful people seem to be naturally good at something is often simple: they have started practicing much earlier than you even notice them.[1] They have been putting in effort continuously for a long enough time.

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It’s an illusion that they were born to be successful, which is why you should start practicing whatever you think you don’t have the talent for, and keep practicing it if you want to be very very good at it.

Most of us are just impatient; we’re not untalented.

Keep in mind that when you say you’re not talented to do something, what you actually mean is that it’s really hard—at the beginning. You have to be patient, and trust that practice will bring progress over time. Don’t give up.

Federer never gave up. Nor did Lang Lang.

Having picked up a racket at 4, Federer is surely talented. But he didn’t win 18 Grand Slam trophies without having practiced hard for years: he began serious training at a tennis club at the tender age of 8, and have continued to do so till this day.[2]

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It’s pretty much the same story for the talented pianist Lang Lang, who started learning to play the piano at 3.[3] He, ironically, was actually rejected by a piano teacher for his ‘lack of talent’ when he was 9.[4] Luckily, he was able to get over the heartbreak and kept playing.

World champion surfer Nic Lamb once said,

“Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret.”[5]

What he means is that you have to be brave in face of challenges. If you come across difficulties when practicing, instead of giving up, you should keep going, or you will never succeed.

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Success, now it seems, depends more on a combination of practice and patience than talent itself. But practice isn’t simply the repetition of the same skill. You also have to learn the how-to of practice.

Successful people don’t just practice more; they practice smart.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have found that how much improvement you can make by practicing a skill does not only depend on how many times you practice, but also on whether the way you practice is effective.[6]

Results from the study suggest that trying out different ways of practicing, compared to repeating the same practice routine, helps your brain learn more efficiently, leading to more improvement within a given period of time. This is because small changes in practice can speed up the learning process.

That is to say, you should structure your practice sessions when you’re trying to develop better skills for a certain activity.

For example, if you’re learning the piano, instead of playing the same list of songs many times, you can try to split your time and focus on a different area (technique) each time you practice. You can practice scales, slower/faster pieces, etc. on different days of the week. Besides improving learning efficiency, this also prevents practice sessions from getting boring, giving you extra incentive to keep practicing.

Now that you know practice is the real cause behind success, as well as how you should practice, it’s time to forget about (your lack of) talent and start practicing whatever you’ve always dreamed of doing!

Reference

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Wen Shan

Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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