The olympics are rapidly approaching, which for me, means watching in amazement as various masters of their sports compete at an unbelievable level of excellence. I cannot help but watch top athletes (or musicians, engineers, actors, teachers, you name it) and think that I am incapable of achieving that level of greatness in anything. But recently I listened to a Freakonomics Podcast that changed this long held belief.
The subject of the podcast was Swedish psychologist, Anders Ericsson, who focuses his research on “deliberate practice,” which means that rather than expertise coming from innate talent, he has found that “the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.” When I heard this, I was absolutely thrilled and extremely motivated.
I have been powerlifting for a few years but never had the guts to compete. I have always though that I was genetically pre-disposed to only lifting a certain amount of weight and that I would never get past that. But now, I believe that if I engage in deliberate practice, a highly structured activity engaged in with the specific goal of improving performance, and work with a really good coach, I can become good and maybe even great at powerlifting!
So I am! I am working with the best strength coach in Chicago who was taught by the best strength coach in the world. I am working out four times a week and I am going to stop being so scared and compete! I have my first competition on June 18th and I am going to keep doing competitions. This is my new life’s ambition and I feel more empowered and happier than ever. And this is all because I broke past the major psychological barrier of thinking that greatness comes from innate talent.
What do you want to become great at? Do you see your supervisors in your externships and summer jobs and think you will never be great at practicing law? Well, you’re wrong! Remember that your supervisors have years of deliberate practice under their belts and if they are knowledgeable and confident, it is because of those years and not because they were born that way.
Whether you want to improve your abilities as a lawyer or your skill in a particular hobby, all you have to do is maintain a high level of practice and constantly seek to improve your performance.
So what are you waiting for? Go get great at something!