One of the things many people want help with is getting better at a certain task or skill such as speaking French as a second language or wingsuit flying. While a few people are lucky to have a lot of talent for learning a specific skill and seem to progress very quickly without much effort, most of us need to put in some concentrated effort to progress quickly or at all.
The wonderful thing about the internet is that there is so much information available that the only real limiting factors for you to get better at whatever you choose to quickly are time and motivation. Still, there is a smart way to go about doing anything. With the right approach, you can develop mastery at whatever you choose at the highest possible rate.
Follow this process to get better quickly:
1. Educate yourself.
Whether you want to get better at fundraising for a charity, playing the piano, cooking, gardening, or learning a language, you have hundreds of books on the topic to choose from. There are also podcasts, videos, and courses on your area of interest.
If you want to become an expert, read three books on the topic. But don’t just read the books, use a highlighter, take notes, write in the margins. USE the book to fully educate yourself.
Watch two full-length videos and not the three minute YouTube synopsis. There are plenty of free videos you can choose from online to get better wat whatever you want. Find an online expert and listen to what he or she has to say and take notes.
Listen to one podcast. The great thing about Podcasts is that you can listen to them anywhere, even in the car, and they have never been more popular. Find an expert in your field of interest and listen them regularly.
Now that you’ve read books, watched videos and listened to podcasts, look for the recurring themes in them all. These are the foundational items that are the most important to master to get better at anything. Learning and improving at anything are active processes. Look for these recurring themes rather than digesting the information passively.
2. Find a mentor.
Want to get better faster? Find a mentor to help you. They make everything happen faster. They know what matters and what doesn’t. They know all the obstacles you’re likely to face because they have faced them before. A mentor can provide focus, encouragement, and most importantly, feedback you can use to get better at anything you choose.
A mentor can be called a coach, teacher, guru, expert, or whatever term resonates with you. No matter what you call him or her, find and use one. It’ll be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
As a martial artist I can attest to the power of practice. You will not improve at anything without practice. The more you practice the better you’ll become AND the more you practice, the faster you’ll improve.
As you practice, practice with intention. When I was learning the martial arts, I would decide on what I was trying to accomplish before I began practicing. So should you.
You might be working on learning all the Russian words associated with ordering in a restaurant. Maybe your intention is to learn the A sharp minor scale on the guitar. Maybe you’re trying to get better at your roundhouse kick. Decide what it is you want to get better at and then practice it.
You also want to practice with an effective frequency. Practicing the piano multiple times each day is better than practicing just once a day. While it would be nice to work on your public speaking skills multiple times each day, that might not be practical or even possible. So figure out the right frequency to practice what you’re trying to get better at doing.
Finally, practice with focus. Your practice time is much less effective if you’re not paying 100% attention to what you’re doing.
By the way, if you want to improve your focus you might want to start by practicing mindfulness. This can help you get better at nearly everything you do.
4. Evaluate your results.
Once you do whatever it is you’re doing, use the feedback you get to evaluate your results. Did you slice your drive out of bounds? Why did it happen? How consistent are your quarter notes? How accurate is your French accent? How is your public speaking coming along? Use this feedback to help yourself get better.
Some things you can test yourself, like your Spanish vocabulary. Other things will require the evaluation of someone with more expertise than you have. This is why it’s so great to have a mentor, teacher, or coach. Also, your mentor can keep you accountable to the goals you’ve agreed to set for yourself.
5. Incorporate Your Feedback into More Practice.
Take what you’ve learned from the feedback you’ve gotten and use it to improve yourself as you practice some more. Frequent practice, using feedback, is the key to progress.
You Can Start to Get Better Today
If you learn, practice, evaluate and use your feedback to get better, as you continue to repeat this process, you’ll improve as fast as humanly possible. The only limits are your time, focus, the quality of your mentor, and ultimately, your talent.
I will never become a center of the Golden State Warriors. I’m too short, too old and my knees just won’t take the jumping anymore. That being said, this doesn’t mean I couldn’t learn to get better at hitting three-point shots if I was willing to get a coach and put in the time and effort. This is a learnable skill that is under my control.
The same goes for you. Don’t limit yourself by trying to become the “best”, focus on how to get better at what you are trying to improve.
Most of all, don’t make the mistake of underestimating the value of how much you practice and how much focus you bring to the task. Practice and focus are under your control and are the practical limiting factors the vast majority of the time.
Simply remember that with time, effort, and an intelligent approach, you can get better at anything at the highest possible rate. You’ll also feel a lot better about yourself and you’ll learn to put this kind of effort into everything you attempt to do.