Three myths you have about your potential

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:


It’s going to be a good day…

Today we wrap up an eight week sales course that I have been the lead instructor for.  It is a really cool day for me, because at the end of this class today I will now be a certified Dale Carnegie Instructor.  What a long road it has been to get here.  I am excited that I have finally completed the instructor training process, but at the same time I am sad that this class is now over.

I plan on closing today with this group and sending them off with their new acquired skills and knowledge with the philosophical view of the 10,000 hour rule.  The 10,000 hour rule states that to be an expert in a field you must devote at least 10,000 hours to that trade or skill.  The premise is that you can only devote about 3 hours or so a day to a skill at maximum efficiency and focus.  So if you devote that much time to something for 7 days a week. that is roughly 21 hours a week.  Then times that 21 X 52 (weeks in a a year) = 1,092 and then times that by 10 (10 years) it is 10,920 hours.

For example:  To be an NBA basketball player.  Most people start playing when they are about five or so.  But they don’t start getting coached at a high level until they reach high school in most cases.  So by the time they reach high school (4 years of organized coaching) and then college (4 years of organized coaching) they have accumulated about 10,000 hours of time to that skill.  The 10,000 hour rule doesn’t work unless you have a coach to help you work in the areas of which you need help.  How long does it take to become a doctor.  4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and then you become specialized in a  certain discipline of medicine.  So when you add it all up, it is more than 10 years.

So my fellow colleagues and class participants will have had about 32 hours of focused discipline, practice, and effort on learning a processed selling skill set.  So for them to become experts on selling they will need a lot of practice and a lot of coaching.  Some of them will leave the class and say “Whew” I am glad that is over, I will get back to what I have always done.  Some of them will have taken away a few nuggets and they will start applying them and have already started applying them since the course began.  Some of them will put the manual on the shelf and never pick it up again. Some will look at the manual every now and then.  Some will embrace it and become an expert in it.

I am going to challenge the class participants with this:  There are 4 ifs to life and life can be worthwhile if:

Life is worthwhile if you try:  Why wouldn’t you at least try something.  Give it a shot.

Life is worthwhile if you learn:  I have discovered life is a lot more fun and lot more opportunities come my way, the more I learn.

Life is worthwhile if you care:  Man, if you don’t care, nothing much can really happen.

Life is worthwhile if you stay:  The 10,000 hour rule represents this, if you just stay dedicated and focused to something, life is worthwhile.  Ask Tiger Woods, ask Michael Jordan, ask Bill gates, Ask Steve Jobs.  They all stayed.