The definition of potential is having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. Which means we all can become something we are not currently. We all have the ability to work on a particular skill and become better at that skill tomorrow than we are today.
Unfortunately, many people go through life thinking that they are getting better at something by just doing it, when all research and evidence says other wise. Yes we can develop potential. And yes we can become better at something when we work hard at it, but there is a certain way this must be done. It can’t only be done by performing the skill or activity over and over.
Here are the three myths about your potential that you most likely have been told:
1st myth: We are limited to what we are given. A lot of people believe that we are born with certain innate abilities and skills that allow us to be successful in certain endeavors. Although there are certain attributes that can help you be more successful when utilized, those attributes by themselves alone will not make you successful.
2nd myth: If you do something long enough you will get better at it. Lets be honest here. How many people do you know who have been driving for thirty or even fifty years, and you wouldn’t get in a car with them driving to go around the block? Extreme case here, but true.
3rd myth: If you try harder you will get better. Unfortunately, this is a common response we give people to encourage them. But it is actually bad advice. Sure, if we feel that a person lacks a certain work ethic and they are not putting in the effort, we may suggest that they try harder. However, if you are in a professional position such as sales, management, etc., if you are not practicing techniques designed to specifically improve in these areas, trying harder will not get you very far.
So how do we realize our potential:
Anders Ericsson in his book Peak, Secrets from the new Science of Expertise, 2016. Tells us the only way to become better at something and maximize our potential in an area is by utilizing the concept of purposeful practice and deliberate practice.
If you have not heard of Anders Ericsson he is the person who conducted the research that has now become known has the 10,000 hour rule. The 10,o00 hour rule is what Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, The Story of Success brought to life. In Gladwell’s book, he discusses the research conducted by Ericsson on what elite performers did to become elite in their chosen field or specialization.
In Gladwell’s book, he references Ericsson’s research that all studies showed that it takes 10,000 hours of practice in a chosen field to become an expert in it. Although, some of this is correct, Ericsson points on in his book Peak, that 10,000 hours is important, but what it is in those 10,000 hours is what is more important. And depending on how you practice, you can speed up the 10,000 hours.
Ericsson uses the term deliberate practice to explain the process of how someone can develop a chosen skill. For deliberate practice to occur the practice must include these traits:
- Deliberate practice must be overseen by a teacher, mentor, or coach.
- Deliberate practice must take someone outside their comfort zone. Not too far, but just enough to stretch their current performance. Which means it will require the maximum effort from the individual.
- Deliberate practice must have well-defined goals and often involves improving one targeted area.
- Deliberate practice requires total focus and effort by the individual.
- Deliberate practice must include some kind of feedback from the coach, manager, teacher on how the person did on the specific task.
The three things we have always been told or may have even said ourselves are myths, because they don’t include the traits of deliberate practice.
1st myth: We are limited to what we are given. This is incorrect because we all start out as novices in a chosen field or skill and we have developed those skills over time and we are now better. We might not be experts, because we have gotten to the point of good enough, which is where most people stop. We all have the ability to continue to develop our skills as far as we want to go with them.
2nd myth: If we do something long enough you will get better at it. Again, if we look at the traits of deliberate practice this is not true. If we are performing good enough, we never stretch ourselves to see if we can actually do better. We never seek feedback from other people to see how we may be able to do something a little bit better. If we do both of these things; seek feedback and stretch ourselves, we can actually get better at it, but just doing it doesn’t make us better at it.
3rd myth: If you try harder you will get better. If we are trying harder, but we are not actually changing how we are doing the activity, then more effort is not going to produce better results. We have to get feedback on how we are doing something and use a different technique or process to get a better result, which we all can do.
The question I have for you is this: When is the last time you worked on a skill or technique by using all of the traits of deliberate practice? Your answer is most likely, “it has been a long time.” Probably since you started in whatever it is you are currently doing.
Something we use to always say in leadership is this: Some people say that have ten years of experience, when they really have one year of experience, ten times. Meaning that they have been doing whatever it is for ten years, but they have yet to get past the first year of knowledge in their abilities. They haven’t increased their skills past the first years development. It’s like a toddler learns how to walk, but never learns how to run.
What are you going to do to ensure you continue to develop your skills in your chosen profession? What are you going to do to implement the traits of deliberate practice into your daily life, so you can continue to develop your skills to become better and increase your potential in your chosen field?
To your success and your future.
Peak; Secrets from the new Science of Expertise; author: Anders Ericsson, 2016
Purchase the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Peak-Secrets-New-Science-Expertise/dp/0544456238/