Are you world-class at something? If not, would you like to become it? Do you sometimes ask yourself how a particular person achieved such a level of mastery at a skill?
I know how it feels, trying to crack the code of mastery. I read countless books on peak performance and deliberate practice. But the model I’m about to share with you is the one that produces by far the best results.
So let me help you crack the code.
The Science Behind Mastery
In his book, High-Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard introduces a concept called ‘progressive mastery’. He describes it as the key to becoming world-class at any skill.
Progressive mastery is more than just repeating a skill over and over. Repetition rarely leads to high performance.
Anders Ericsson, in his book Peak or Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code, talks about deliberate practice as the secret behind world-class performance. Deliberate practice has to be focussed, with a clear goal, outside your comfort zone, and with immediate feedback. It’s far from mindless repetition.
Progressive mastery takes this approach a step further by incorporating elements of teaching, competing, and emotion into the equation.
Buchard outlines ten steps required for progressive mastery. They are:
- Determine a skill that you want to master.
- Set specific stretch goals on your path to developing that skill.
- Attach high levels of emotion and meaning to your journey and your results.
- Identify the factors critical to success and develop your strengths in those areas.
- Develop visualizations that imagine what success and failure look like.
- Schedule challenging practices developed by experts or through careful thought.
- Measure your progress and seek external feedback.
- Socialize your learning and efforts by practicing or competing with others.
- Continue setting higher-level goals so that you keep improving.
- Teach others what you are learning.
Now let’s dissect all ten steps so you can apply them to your own needs.
1. Determine the Skill You Want to Master
What are the skills you’ll have to develop to make your dreams a reality? According to Brendon, high achievers have a written game plan for their personal development. They know exactly where they have to grow and become better at achieving their mission.
Once you know where you want to go in your life, you can identify the skills you need to master. Pick the most critical skill and start working on it immediately.
Let’s say you want to positively influence people and become a leader, for example. An essential skill for you to develop would, therefore, be public speaking.
2. Set Specific Stretch Goals on Your Path to Developing That Skill
Never start with S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound). You want your goals to fuel your motivation and to drive you. S.M.A.R.T goals are not wrong, but just too realistic. What’s realistic to you now can easily be small-minded to your future self.
Your goals should make you stretch yourself and force you to achieve a level of performance you previously thought of as impossible.
- Read your speech from a piece of paper.
- Use only half of the paper
- Use only bullet points
- Record your self
- Give your speech to your family
- Make Youtube video
- Join a toastmasters club
- Give your speech in schools
- Give your speech in enterprises
Work your way up, but never forget your overall goal of positively influence people and becoming a leader.
3. Attach a High Level of Emotion to Your Goal
Feel how it would hurt not to achieve your goals. Feel how good it would be to positively influence people and become a leader.
Allow yourself to get frustrated and fired up. Feelings are what drives us. Don’t try to cut them out or cover them up.
4. Identify Critical Factors to Your Success
Twenty percent of the things you do get 80 percent of your results. This is called Pareto’s Principle. If you want to become successful, you must identify the factors that move the needle. Don’t just do what everybody else is doing and hope for a different outcome. Instead, track down experts and find out what moved the needle for them.
Stick to proven practices and avoid getting lost in different opinions and suggestions. For public speaking, this could mean mastering the art of storytelling. Stick to the hero’s journey until you learn it.
5. Start to Visualise What Success and Failure Look Like
Start every morning by visualising the skill you want to learn. Imagine how you perform the skill successfully and feel the positive feelings associated with your performance.
Don’t forget to contrast by imagining what could go wrong and how your life would look like if you wouldn’t learn the skill. This should give you a sense of urgency, and together with the positive feelings you brought forth earlier, lead to a burst of motivation.
Start every morning by visualising, giving a powerful speech, and positively influencing people. Imagine the good and bad, what could go wrong, and where you could get better. Use your emotions to make your visualisation as real as possible.
6. Schedule Challenging Practices Developed by Experts
You can only label something as a distraction if you know what it is distracting you from. A calendar is your secret weapon. After a look at your schedule, it should be immediately apparent what you’re working on and about to achieve. You should note deadlines, daily action items, practice sessions, feedback rounds, and time to reflect in your calendar.
Even if you don’t have a coach, read books by experts, schedule time, and practice as if they would stand right next to you. Schedule your speaking practices and make sure to challenge yourself continually.
7. Measure Your Progress and Get Outside Feedback
Progress is the biggest motivator out there. Measuring your progress will give you an immense motivational boost. Sometimes it’s hard to get feedback if you practice on your own.
The sooner you get outside feedback on your performance, the better. There are countless mistakes one could make. You don’t have to make them all by yourself; a good coach can guide you and facilitate the journey.
Give free speeches for your friends and to nonprofit organisations to get more practice. Instead of payment, let them give you honest feedback.
If possible, hire a coach.
8. Socialize Your Learning by Practicing With Others
Start talking openly about your goals and dreams. Yes, this will make you an easy target for all the naysayers, but it will also make space for mentors to show up in your life. A mentor can challenge you and guide you.
At some point, it’s time to train and compete with people that are better than you. You can learn from them by observing, and you have ongoing motivation to stretch yourself.
To improve your speaking skills, start your own local toastmaster’s group, and get better together.
9. Continually Set Higher Goals
In the gym, a common misconception is that training should feel more comfortable if you progress. Yes, if you never increase the weights you use, they will start to feel light. But you will also stop making progress. To continue growing, you must adapt the loads you use — it should never feel easy.
The same principle applies to every skill you want to develop. I don’t say you shouldn’t be happy if you achieve a goal. The opposite is true. I encourage you to celebrate every small win like you just won the lottery. This is what keeps you motivated. But afterwards, you should use the motivation to set new goals and to go for them with full force.
Set targets to speak in front of 1, 2, 5, 10 … people. Until you gain the confidence to speak in front of thousands.
10. Teach Others What You’re Learning
Teaching is the ultimate test to prove that you understood something. Like Mike Tyson said it:
‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. ’
Luckily you don’t have to go and get yourself punched. But as soon as someone starts asking you questions, you should better be prepared, or your illusion of competence will be destroyed quickly.
Mentor new speakers, make Youtube videos, or an online course.
Don’t leave learning new skills to chance. If you follow the ten steps listed above, you are on your way to mastery. Trust the process, never lose sight of your vision and become the person the world needs.
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