Deliberate Practice - How to Improve at Life

At the top levels of any sport, company or skill (think music/art), we find the gifted. Recently we saw this in the Olympics, a showcase of the world's best athletes in their given sport. These competitors are marvelous to watch as they execute each movement with surgical precision. 

As I sit on my couch, I think, "my god these athletes are gifted... If I only had their natural talent... etc." 

But really, how natural is a Snatch or Clean and Jerk? How natural is it for a human to swim - definitely less natural than running. But what about the trampoline? Gymnastics rings? Ping pong? Cycling? None of this really seem natural to me. 

These are movements in a sport, created by the human race - or for a human race (see what i did there?). 

It's easy for us to look at the best athletes in the world and give them a pass, an excuse for being the best -- they are natural athletes with a god given gift. Well, that certainly makes me feel better about last night's Shameless Netflix marathon (great show, btw). I couldn't do what they do because god hasn't given me that gift, so there's no use in trying. 

#hugecopout

Let's look at my theories on what makes the best athletes the best

  • They fell in love with the sport at a young age. 

They might not have grown in love with that specific sport or skill immediately, but i bet they did something similar from early on. Their passion passed over into whichever sport they dominate now. Maybe they didn't start in weightlifting, but they lifted for football in high school, which blossomed into a love for the movement. They were inspired by someone to close to them to pursue the sport and so they did. With passion. 

  • They practiced deliberately over the course of many years

Deliberate practice is pivotal to the advancement of any skill, trade, hobby, etc. Moreover, these skills transfer into relationships, work, fitness, cooking, anything. If you practice with deliberate intention to get better, guess what? You'll improve. In order to understand where your focus should like, tell me what specifically you're not great at, then tell me what you need to do to be great at it. Then, commit to this improvement during practice. 

  • Have a bigger purpose than yourself

Research that I haven't done, nor will cite, claims that when individuals identify the why behind what they are doing, they are much happier and much more dedicated to completing that goal. If you're doing it for you, that's ok too, but if you can grasp that what you're trying to accomplish will positively affect others, you've given yourself a reason to push forwards and break through mental "give-up" barriers because it's no longer about how you feel. It's about how you can improve the lives of others. 

Find your bigger purpose and keep that in mind when ever practice gets difficult and uncomfortable. 

Action steps. 

1. Stop calling people gifted. They are in fact very hard working and dedicated to their purpose. 

2. Find what you enjoy and do more of it with intent to improve. Can't think of anything? Reminisce about your younger days. 

3. Use your passion to have a bigger purpose. 

4. Always remember, skills take time to develop. Massive amounts of time. Have patience and stay consistent, even when you don't feel like it.

5. Find others with a similar passion. They will help motivate you to stay on track and push past the uncomfortable stages of growth. Remember, everyone started somewhere. Drew Brees didn't throw a spiral his first pass. He practiced, deliberately and with focused intention to be a world champion of America :)