When you focus a beam of light, it intensifies—think of the power that a lightbulb focused through a magnifying glass has to ignite dry grass or small bugs. However, when you diffuse that same lightbulb through a lampshade, you end up with dimmer light and less effective energy. By restricting the number of tasks and skills you focus on, you're similarly able to get the most important things done consistently and get them done faster and better.
But with so many skills and tasks playing into the job s you do every day, where should you focus your time and effort? This is thanks to what are known as keystone habits.
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These are the habits and skills that you should focus on when mastering practice. To identify these keystone habits and skills in your own life and profession, Charles Duhigg recommends:. Look for behaviors that have a ripple effect, changing your other behaviors without extra effort. And pay attention to how you see yourself when you do a particular habit. Does it change your self image? Do you feel better when you think of yourself as a person who flosses, a note-taker during meetings, a runner, or a person who meditates?
Programmer and author Kathy Sierra emphasizes the importance of focusing on keystone skills and habits when she describes deliberate practice as working on a skill that requires 1 to 3 practice sessions to master. Craftspeople often learn and hone their craft through apprenticeship with someone who's already mastered the craft.
Ideally that feedback comes from someone with an expert eye, and so every world-class sports champion has a coach. The feedback matters and the concentration does, too—not just the hours. Sadly, this is a place where many of us get stuck.
The Waste Land
Managers are busy. Experts charge by the hour. Family may not be critical enough—or they may be too critical. How, then, can you find the kind of feedback loop that is so important to success? Find—or build—a community. If you have trouble finding such a community, consider starting one! Just remember that generosity is reciprocal. Ask yourself: What knowledge do you have that others may be seeking? What role can you play in building up a local or online community of experts?
Always be learning. A feedback loop can take many different forms. While a personal coach is perhaps a more direct source, don't underestimate continued education. Reading, in particular, gives you deep insight into specific topics from the minds of experts.
The Better Craftsman and Other Stories
These insights can then be applied to your own practice to create a feedback loop. If you want feedback or advice, just ask! Whether you want feedback from a manager, colleague, family member, or an expert in your field, it never hurts to ask for advice. Tools like Clearbit Connect make this easier than ever.
The worst they can do is say no, after all. Just remember that respect is key to building a good feedback relationship, whether you're asking for advice once or working with a peer or a potential mentor. He's speaking specifically about a mentor, but this advice applies when trying to get feedback from a peer as well:. If you have one in mind, start by building the relationship—just like you would anyone else. Instead, get to know them.
Look for opportunities to be generous. Start small and see where it goes. Hire a coach. While not everyone can afford this, for some people in some professions, hiring a coach—even just for a few hours—may prove to be well worth the cost. A quick Google search will offer hundreds of coaching options. Take your time to hunt down the one that best fits your budget and goals or ask around for recommendations.
Regardless of your industry or profession, it is possible to pursue mastery. Better yet, it's highly profitable to pursue mastery.
- Stanley Black & Decker CEO: 'Things are going great with Craftsman';
- Get It Together.
- How to Achieve Greater Joy At Work With A Craftsman-Like Approach.
- Lesson Plan The Fixer by Bernard Malamud.
- Sex Drugs and Unix.
As discussed earlier, mastery will not only increase your skill, but will improve your motivation, as well as provide a sense of purpose and meaning in even the most boring industry. To close in the words of Amelia Earhart: "There is only one way in this world to achieve true happiness, and that is to express yourself with all your skill and enthusiasm in a career that appeals to you more than any other. Blacksmith image by Clark Young.
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