Always exaggerate new moves; Shrink the practice space; and (my personal favorite) Take lots of naps.
Small actions, repeated over time, transform us.
You are born with the machinery to transform beginners’ clumsiness into fast, fluent action. That machinery is not controlled by genes, it’s controlled by you. Each day, each practice session, is a step toward a different future.
Part One: Getting Started: Stare, Steal, and Be Willing to Be Stupid
Talent begins with brief, powerful encounters that spark motivation by linking your identity to a high- performing person or group. This is called ignition, and it consists of a tiny, world- shifting thought lighting up your unconscious mind: I could be them.
Think of your windshield as an energy source for your brain. Use pictures (the walls of many talent hotbeds are cluttered with photos and posters of their stars) or, better, video. One idea: Bookmark a few YouTube videos, and watch them before you practice, or at night before you go to bed.
Many hotbeds use an approach I call the engraving method. Basically, they watch the skill being performed, closely and with great intensity, over and over, until they build a high- definition mental blueprint.
..some writers I know achieve this effect by retyping passages verbatim from great works.
Feeling stupid is no fun. But being willing to be stupid— in other words, being willing to risk the emotional pain of making mistakes— is absolutely essential, because reaching, failing, and reaching again is the way your brain grows and forms new connections.
Living- Social, the Washington, D.C., e- commerce company, has a rule of thumb for employees: Once a week, you should make a decision at work that scares you.
..luxury is a motivational narcotic: It signals our unconscious minds to give less effort. It whispers, Relax, you’ve made it.
Soft skills are about the three Rs: Reading, Recognizing, and Reacting.
When you practice a soft skill, focus on making a high number of varied reps, and on getting clear feedback.
If you have early success, do your best to ignore the praise and keep pushing yourself to the edges of your ability, where improvement happens. If you don’t have early success, don’t quit. Instead, treat your early efforts as experiments, not as verdicts. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Part Two: Improving Skills: Find the Sweet Spot, Then Reach
People in the hotbeds have a different relationship with practicing.
No matter what skill you set out to learn, the pattern is always the same: See the whole thing. Break it down to its simplest elements. Put it back together. Repeat.
One useful method is to set a daily SAP: smallest achievable perfection. In this technique, you pick a single chunk that you can perfect— not just improve, not just “work on,” but get 100 percent consistently correct. For example, a tennis player might choose the service toss; a salesperson might choose the twenty- second pitch he’ll make to an important client. The point is to take the time to aim at a small, defined target, and then put all your effort toward hitting it.
“Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens— and when it happens, it lasts.”
The struggle and frustration you feel at the edges of your abilities— that uncomfortable burn of “almost, almost”— is the sensation of constructing new neural connections, a phenomenon that the UCLA psychologist Robert Bjork calls “desirable difficulty.” Your brain works just like your muscles: no pain, no gain.
The world- class performers spent five times as many hours practicing alone.
Develop the habit of attending to your errors right away. Don’t wince, don’t close your eyes; look straight at them and see what really happened, and ask yourself what you can do next to improve. Take mistakes seriously, but never personally.
Always focus on the positive move, not the negative one.
“For example, in mastering a difficult piece of music on the guitar, I practice, then I do something else for ten minutes, then I practice again [and so on].”
R: Reaching and Repeating E: Engagement P: Purposefulness S: Strong, Speedy Feedback.
Part Three: Sustaining Progress: Embrace Repetition, Cultivate Grit, and Keep Big Goals Secret
Embracing repetition means changing your mindset; instead of viewing it as a chore, view it as your most powerful tool.
The solution is to ignore the bad habit and put your energy toward building a new habit that will override the old one.
Grit is that mix of passion, perseverance, and self- discipline that keeps us moving forward in spite of obstacles.
Grit isn’t inborn. It’s developed, like a muscle, and that development starts with awareness.