How to become an expert
We all admire experts and geniuses. They command our attention and often earn rewards far beyond the dreams of an ordinary person. Whether a genius on the sports-field, at programming computers, or at building celebrity - pick up any magazine and you'll see we live in a society that worships experts.
But how do you become one?
That, my friends, is the million dollar question. Most people just assume that experts are born - not built. The myth of the natural is strong and comforting. Believing you are either born talented or not gives a powerful excuse for those who are in the ranks of the average.
But there's a way almost any person can be guaranteed to rise above the crowd in virtually any field. Simply through hard work and constant challenge. Of course, natural ability plays a part, but someone willing to put in the effort and stretch their talents can overcome even a natural disadvantage. They may never become number one in the world, but they can easily aim at being in the top 1%.
The trick is to keep stretching yourself beyond your capabilities even after you find you are competent. Most beginners improve quickly at any given skill, but once they reach a level that lets them coast along on what they've already learned, they give up on pushing themselves.
Those who go on to become experts and geniuses are NEVER satisfied with their skill level. They continue to practice, train and study, even if their abilities are already well-above those of their peers. They always try to undertake tasks that lie just beyond their current abilities.
So a tennis player who can beat all her friends seeks out new and more skilled friends to play. A computer programmer who's mastered the Java programming language tackles a project writing in Perl. And a musician who can effortlessly strum any rock-tune challenges himself to learn classical guitar.
We all know of people who showed their genius early - Mozart in music, Tiger Woods in golf, and so on. But what many people don't realize is that such people started working on their skills very early. By the time they came to the attention of the world, they already had years of hard work behind them.
The most important thing is not the amount of labor you do in your field, but the amount of quality labor. By that, I mean work that you find difficult – work that hurts. If you can do it automatically and without really thinking, then it’s unlikely to be improving you.
Expert-building labor should involve a bit of pain. It needs to be confusing, frustrating and scary. It’s overcoming these types of obstacles that will really separate you out from your peers who stay in the lowlands of the comfortable.
Keep pushing yourself beyond your limit, even if you've left others far behind. You can never totally master anything, and you can never hope to. For those who are determined to become experts, the world is a hotbed of opportunity.
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