Tips for Practicing and Mastering Any Skill


skillExpertise doesn’t come overnight. Even relatively simple skills can take some time to reach a high level of expertise.

There are many theories of how long it takes to master a complex skill. The most common number is 10,000 hours. But it’s not enough to mindlessly practice something for 10,000 hours. It’s important to spend that time optimally.

Any skill can be mastered with sufficient dedication and effective practice:

1. Quality counts. Repetition is important, but not more important than accuracy. Playing a guitar chord incorrectly 1,000 times doesn’t help much, unless you want to do it incorrectly when it counts. Avoid the belief that the quantity of practice is all that matters. Quality practice results in a greater level of mastery.

2. Daily practice is effective practice. There’s a limit to how much you can do in a day. There’s a limit to how much your brain can learn. Practicing beyond a certain amount of time isn’t an effective use of your time. Many world-class pianists insist they don’t play more than a couple of hours each day.

  • Practice your skill daily if possible, even if it shortens your practice sessions. Some expert musicians recommend practicing for multiple sessions of 10 minutes per session.

3. Practice multiple times each day. Thirty minutes of practice, twice per day, is more effective than practicing for an hour once per day. Break up your practice sessions and you’ll make more progress.

4. Get a good coach. Whether you want to master real estate investing or playing the banjo, a coach is an important part of your team. Why make unnecessary mistakes? A great mentor can take years off your learning curve.

5. Spend your time on what matters. Of all the activities you can do to master a skill, 20% of those items will provide 80% of your results. Unfortunately, that 20% consists of the things that aren’t enjoyable to do. Mastering your skill will require spending your time effectively. Make the most of your effort.

6. Test yourself regularly. Are you learning how to drive a golf ball further? Then check your driving distance on a regular basis. Examine your results and look at your progress. Making progress means you’re on the right track. It’s also very motivating.

  • Poor progress might mean you need to change your approach. Consulting your mentor is another logical step.

7. Be selective. Too many people try to master too many things. You don’t have enough time to master the drums, the guitar, Mandarin, photography, screenwriting, and long-range rifle shooting. There are only so many hours in the day. Be choosy and work on the skills that matter the most to you.

8. Have patience. Progress comes in spurts. The first 40 hours or so can be especially troubling. Until your brain makes a few alterations, progress can be extremely slow. It’s easy to become frustrated and quit. Give yourself time. Focus practicing consistently and properly. Trust that the results will come in time.

Not all skills are created equal. Some skills have a physical component, such as pitching a baseball or playing the violin. Others are more information based, such as investing in commercial real estate. The way you’ll practice your skill depends on the skill in question. That’s why a mentor is so important.

Use your practice time wisely. Your time is limited. Ensure that you give your practice efforts your full attention. With time, any skill can be mastered!

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