Don’t be discouraged by the ten-year rule. Ten years seems like a long time until you realize that it can be achieved minute by minute and day by day. When it comes to practice use the ten-minutes/ten-years tactic: Practice deliberately every day to become remarkable, but understand that it will probably take ten years to become world class. (Think of world-class as the zenith of remarkable.) And it will still take ten years whether you start now or next year.
One of my earliest mentors shared a metaphor about mastery. He told me to rob a few gas stations on my way to the bank heist. He obviously wasn’t encouraging a life of crime. He was illustrating an important concept: To get remarkable at the big performances, practice getting good on the small performances along the way performances.
Learn to Practice and Practice to Learn
Deliberate practice means incorporating new insights and understanding daily as you practice. In other words, deliberate practice requires learning and building on the fruits of that learning.
Here are four learning tactics to fuel your practice. They are free, time-tested, and can be applied by anyone who is striving to become a remarkable performer:
1. Read. Surveys periodically tell us how many Americans are/are not reading books, and the trends are not always encouraging, especially among young people. But since the advent of the Internet, book-reading statistics don’t tell the whole story since so many people read online these days. Given the unlimited amounts of information available online today there is little justification for anyone not being a reader. Nor is there any reason for anyone to be without the information that would fuel his or her ascendancy to remarkable-performer status.
What performance do you want to improve? Begin by searching books, magazines, the internet or anywhere you can find ideas that will help make your performance remarkable.
2. Observe. There is a big difference between looking and observing. Every waking moment we see people, places, things, and actions. But how many of them do we observe for the purpose of learning from them?
My friend Jim Cathcart says, “To know more, notice more.”
3. Learn from the best. One of the early legends of speaking, Cavett Robert, used to say in jest, “People say I plagiarize, but if I do, I steal from the very best.”
Who are your mentors—either personal or long-distance? How many videos or DVD’s do you study in order to learn from those you admire? What kind of notebook or journal do you keep in which you write down serendipitous lessons learned throughout the day? Learning comes from careful observation, not casual looking.
4. Play. If you think of practicing your craft as “play” rather than “work,” you’ll find the process much more enjoyable. Play is the application of the principles you’ve learned. And play casts failure in a whole new light.
I seldom encounter business professionals who make time to practice their craft. While many learn from “practice in play” (gaining insights from doing one’s work rather than practicing in advance of performance), the remarkable performers are always those who know the importance of practice and make it a priority.