Advertising
Advertising

How to Grow 10x Faster by Picking the Right Battlefield

How to Grow 10x Faster by Picking the Right Battlefield

I believe many of us, either consciously or subconsciously believe that life is a quest of self improvement, a quest that only ends in death.

This is a popular notion, after all, consider the abundance and popularity of self-help books and sites.The focus on improvement is so strong that, according to this graph

The use of the word “improve” has been increasing steadily since the start of the 20th century.

Advertising

    Yet all this focus on a general improvement mean that we often don’t know what to focus on. We want to improve, but we don’t know the answer to the simple question: Improve what?

    Developing the wrong things can complicate or slow down our quests for self improvement.

    Wayne Rooney, the world famous English soccer player has played a number of different positions on the pitch. Because of this he is a skilled all round player. He’s good but he might not be as nearly great as he could be if he decided to play to his strengths and stick to them.

    This is obvious when compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, who has always played to his strengths by focusing on being in forward. Cristiano Ronaldo is considered to be arguably the finest player currently in professional soccer.

    If Ronaldo were to have decided to move about the pitch, playing a great number of different positions, then as he never focused on developing his skills, he would have likely ended up an inferior player than he is today.

    Advertising

    Ultimately it is easier to see your own weaknesses than strengths. This can be worse when you see someone great at something you are not. It is easy to feel compelled to try to match them in their skill. However this disregards the probability that you are better at something than them. Returning to the soccer analogy, if a whole team were to try to match each other, instead of developing their own skills. It would be a mediocre team.

    It is impossible for one person to be great at everything, so developing in a focused way may be the true source of self-improvement or growth that you actually need.

    This notion has been proved in the history of the smartphone too.

    Consider the history of the smartphone[1] Prior to the unveiling of the Iphone in 2007, phone companies thought the future of mobile phones resided durablity, the chipsets, and appearance (for example the popular Motorola RAZR [2] which only really was revolutionary in appearance, not tech).

    Advertising

    Apple however, realized people deep down wanted more efficiency, and something more than just a mobile . Luckily being innovative and improving efficiency have always been Apple’s strengths. In focusing on their strengths, they have revolutionized the mobile phone industry. Whereas everyone was trying to improve upon everything, Apple just made a device that encapsulated everything they already did well.

    Because they played to their strengths they exceeded, outclassed and outsold their competitions, and eventually the competition ended up more or less copying Apple with their own smartphones.

    Improving everything = Becoming average at everything

    The best way to truly improve yourself doesn’t go with finding and getting things you don’t have, but building on the things that you have already.

    This process can be painful and difficult. Whenever we find things we aren’t good at, it is perfectly natural to want to become good at it. However time is finite. Every second you spend going from bad to decent at one thing, is a second you could have spent on going from good to sensational at something else.

    Advertising

    But what exactly should you do?

    1. Clearly identify your strength

    It is a good idea to sit down and work out what exactly your strengths are. Only you know this, you might be a fantastic painter, a skilled engineer, a great sportsperson, a passionate performer, or a great writer….it doesn’t matter. Once you have identified your strengths, hold them, celebrate them! But at the same time accept that it is literally impossible to be great at everything, so why try?

    2. Define it clearly by doing detailed research

    Once you have identified your strengths and skills, spend time to truly learn about them, learn what can be improved and how to go about improving. You can only build on something if you know and understand everything about it. For example if you are already good at communication, look into the importance of tone and body language, and as a result, you will go from a great communicator to an exceptional one.

    3. Breakdown your strength into small parts and start practicing, deliberately

    Once you understand yourself and your skills you can now readily identify what parts you need to build on and what parts you don’t. After this you should practice your skill with the specific aim at improving on on that particular aspect. This is called deliberate practice. If you want to learn more about deliberate practice, I recommend you read our article about it on Lifehack. Once you improve on particular parts, your overall skill level improves dramatically as you are training yourself in a very systematic, strategic way.

    Picking flaws at what you are already good is hard but this is how you can turn from good to great

    This process is extremely difficult and can be initially very disappointing. When you develop skills in something you’re not already good at, you can see obvious progress in not much time at all. However it is much less easy to spot improvements in something you’re already good at. It is easier to spot things you’re not very good at than to spot things lacking in things you are already good at. To see flaws in something others think you are skilled at.

    Therefore it seems to truly excel you need to focus. Develop one thing you’re already good at and keep working on it until you’re the best.

    Reference

    [1] Guardian: The history of smartphones: timeline
    [2] Business Insider:Watch The Incredible 70-Year Evolution Of The Cell Phone

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

    How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy How Your Attitude Determines Your Success How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

    Trending in Smartcut

    1 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 2 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 3 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone? 4 Do You Want to Know the Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life? 5 What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 21, 2019

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

    You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

    But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

    To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

    It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

    “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

    The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

    In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

    Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

    1. Start Small

    The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

    Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

    Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

    Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

    Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

    Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

    It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

    Do less today to do more in a year.

    2. Stay Small

    There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

    Advertising

    But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

    If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

    When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

    I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

    Why?

    Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

    The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

    Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

    3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

    No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

    There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

    What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

    Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

    This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

    This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

    4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

    When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

    There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

    Peter Drucker said,

    “What you track is what you do.”

    So track it to do it — it really helps.

    But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

    5. Measure Once, Do Twice

    Peter Drucker also said,

    “What you measure is what you improve.”

    So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

    For reading, it’s 20 pages.
    For writing, it’s 500 words.
    For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
    For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

    Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

    6. All Days Make a Difference

    Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

    Will two? They won’t.

    Will three? They won’t.

    Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

    What happened? Which one made you fit?

    The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

    No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

    7. They Are Never Fully Automated

    Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

    But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

    What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

    It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

    Advertising

    The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

    It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

    It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

    8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

    Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

    Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

    When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

    The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

    Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

    9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

    The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

    Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

    You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

    But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

    So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

    If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

    This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

    The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

    Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

    10. Punish Yourself

    Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

    Advertising

    I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

    It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

    You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

    No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

    The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

    But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

    Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

    The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

    After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

    If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

    Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

    If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

    In the End, It Matters

    What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

    When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

    And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

    “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

    Keep going.

    Advertising

    More Resources to Help You Build Habits

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
    [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
    [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
    [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

    Read Next