4 Steps to Improve Any Skill

In everything you do, you are compared to your predecessors. How you measure up has a dramatic impact on your future. If you’re a football player coming out of college, your chances of playing professionally are greatly increased if you are the 2nd or 3rd best player in the nation compared to the 60th or 70th.

This is just the way it is and that’s a good thing. Competition fosters excellence. Steel sharpens steel. Some say all that matters is that you tried your best. These types of people have no idea what it’s like to compete with maximum effort. These are the people that made participation trophies a thing.

This looks like a business book, but it will get you thinking about competition the right way.

These types also lack pride in how they do something. It’s not only about being a better wide receiver than the other guys in the country. It’s not about being a better boyfriend than your friend or your girlfriend’s old boyfriend. You’ll always be compared. What makes a difference is the pride you take in your actions. It comes down to doing the best job that you possibly can do.

The meta-lesson of being better than someone at anything—whether the verdict is given by an objective, subjective, direct or indirect assessment—is to always do the best that you can. In our quest to figure out what practices lead to being the best, it is easy to become misguided and focus on things that don’t matter.

I believe that the core of winning is the same regardless of what you are trying to win at. What are the core things you must do to be the best you can be and increase the likelihood that you’ll be better than anyone that is trying to do what you do?

Open-Mind

I grew up in a pretty rough ghetto. I would see some ridiculous acts of “discipline” towards children that definitely qualified as abuse. If you tried to say something to the parent, the response was always, “Don’t tell me how to raise my kids!” I get that it’s reactionary, but you have to understand that many people think they have the best method for doing something. Thinking like this puts you at a tremendous disadvantage.

This looks like something that would have happened where I grew up.

If you think like this, it makes it incredibly easy for someone to excel beyond you. This is because your mind is like a full glass of water while when it should be more like a stream; in one nothing changes, nothing can be added and what’s already there becomes a stagnant poison. The other is always being refreshed, flowing and changing the old useless water out for new water.

As long as you are willing to learn something new, there’s a good chance you are going to make yourself better than your competition.

Double Experience, Same Time

If you haven’t learned about the 10,000-hour rule, google it. It’s not a stone cast rule for everything, but the over-arching idea is that the more your practice, the better you become. You must also practice correctly on the correct things.

If you and I decide—and neither of us has really cared about basketball before—that one month from now we’re going to see who can land the most 3 point shots in a minute, who would you bet your money on: the guy that practices 2 hours a day or the guy that practices 4? The winner will most likely be the guy who gets 2 hours more experience per day.

Ability is a function of both effort and time. Networking and socializing 5 nights a week will make you better with people than someone who goes out 1 night a month. Many times, beating the competition comes down to pure hustle. But to hustle, you need…

Self-Motivation

The open mind is essential to learn new, more efficient ways of reaching a goal. Extra work needs to be put in to seek out innovative ways to do things. This requires motivation. Remember: the only person that really cares you excelling is you.

You’re the only one who cares if you succeed. Others may feel good or bad if you do well, but they are not deeply invested in the outcome.

Self-motivation is the natural result of taking pride in yourself and what you do. If you have this, you will continually improve while others are left behind. You aren’t just going through the motions to appease someone else. It becomes a habit because you want to get beyond the pack.

Tough Skin

If one can not take criticism, then one can not improve. When you can’t improve, someone else will and that’s bad for you. Criticism either offers suggestions or attacks with negativity. If you can’t handle the former, you won’t get better. If you can’t handle the latter, you’ll fail because you are continually distracted.

Tough skin is how you cope with both of these situations and it comes from being focused on improving. If you keep that goal in mind, then you will be able to embrace constructive criticism and ignore destructive criticism.

I love this book. I strongly recommended picking it up for insights.

In the end, remember that being better than the competition is the goal. Whether you are the best you can be or you beat everyone else, you are judged and ranked against others in your field. Even if you only care about how well you do, even that is still defined in comparison to how well someone else did or is doing.

There are many other ways to ensure that you are always improving past your competitors, predecessors and up and comers alike, but this is the foundation upon which you can always drive forward.

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