Kaizen – Litemind https://litemind.com Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to be Great: Rising Above the Talent Myth https://litemind.com/talent-myth/ https://litemind.com/talent-myth/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2008 13:13:20 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=61 Think of the greatest athletes, musicians or artists that inspires you. They were each born with a special gift: wired from birth with talents and abilities that we don't have access to, right? Research shows it’s not that simple.

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How to be Great: Rising Above the Talent Myth

This is an article by guest writer Don Campbell of Expand2Web.

“A genius! For 37 years I’ve practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!” –Pablo Sarasate (Spanish violinist)

Think of the greatest athlete, musician, artist or business professional that inspires you. The amazing talents that really stand out. Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Warren Buffett. They were each born with a special gift: wired from birth with talents and abilities that most of us don’t have access to, right?

Research is showing that it’s not that simple. In fact, many child prodigies don’t go on to major success in the area of their early gifts. And many of the greatest performers, athletes and business people never showed any early signs of aptitude.

So, how did they become great at what they do?

A couple of years ago I read an article by Geoffrey Colvin in Fortune, What It Takes To Be Great. The article is fascinating and delves into the question of innate abilities, usually referred as “the talent myth”.

The Research on Great Performance

In 1993, Florida State University professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues published a paper on ‘expert performance’ which, along with the additional studies around the world that it inspired, made some very interesting discoveries:

  • Nobody is “great” without lots of work. Early aptitude is not a predictor for greatness in a given field without consistent practice over a long period of time.
  • The most accomplished people in any field need about 10 years of hard work before they become “world class”. They call this the 10 Year Rule.

Many of these scientists are now saying that “targeted” natural gifts do not exist at all. You are not born a CEO or chess grandmaster. Rather, greatness is achieved by hard, focused work over many years.

Charlie Parker, widely considered one of the most influential of Jazz musicians, showed no sign of musical talent as a child. He started playing saxophone at age 11, and was thrown out of his high school band because he was so bad. But this drove him to practice intensively for many years, for four years up to 15 hours a day. It was many years after that before he was noticed.

Tiger Woods started practicing golf at 18 months, and was encouraged to practice by his father. He had been practicing intensively for 15 years before winning the U.S. Amateur Championship at age 18.

But you and I both know people who work very hard. Many work for decades at a job or hobby without approaching greatness. Why don’t they become “world class”, then?

It turns out that it’s not just hard work that is required. What is required is focused, consistent practice over a long period of time. Something the researchers are calling deliberate practice.

Deliberate Practice

Truly great people in any field devote many hours to deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is an activity that goes beyond repetition. It is consistent practice where the goal is to continually improve performance, reaching beyond your current capabilities, and seeking feedback on results.

The article describes what is my favorite example of deliberate practice:

Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don’t get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day — that’s deliberate practice.

And what’s great about these findings is that we can apply them to all areas of our life. Almost any skill is improvable. Giving presentations. Sports. Negotiating. Whatever it is that you do and have a passion for, you can improve and become truly great — if you are willing to put in the work, that is.

The Deliberate Practice Formula

  1. Approach each critical task with an explicit goal of getting much better at it. Set goals that are just beyond your level of competency.
  2. As you do the task, focus on what’s happening and why you’re doing it the way you are.
  3. After the task, get feedback on your performance from multiple sources. Don’t get emotional about it, and make changes in your behavior as necessary.
  4. Continually build mental models of your situation – of your industry, your company, your career. Expand the models to encompass more factors. (A good book on the concept of mental models is The Power of Impossible Thinking by Yoram Wind and Colin Cook).
  5. Do those steps regularly, not sporadically. Occasional practice does not work. Consistency is the key here.

What Does This All Mean?

We don’t have to be born with a special talent in order to be great at something. We just have to have the desire to constantly work at and improve our skill. This is huge: it means that you can learn to be good, or even great at nearly anything!

Most people won’t go through the long and difficult process of deliberate practice. But this is what can separate you from the pack. This is what makes great performance rare: most people either don’t believe they can do it, or aren’t willing to do the work to become truly great at their passion.

So ask yourself, what is your ‘mastery skill’? What should you work on to improve regularly, practicing, getting feedback, improving and pushing yourself to higher levels of excellence?

Is it your career? Is it a sport? Is it art or music? Now that you know that excellence is a choice, a whole world of possibilities opens up. Are you ready to pursue your dream and become “world class at it”?

Article Mind Map

When I read something that I really want to remember, I create a mind map to help me conceptualize what I’ve read. My mind map summary of the article that inspired this post, What It Takes To Be Great, is included below.

How to be Great: Rising Above the Talent Myth Mind Map

Additional Resources

About Don Campbell

Don is the publisher of www.Expand2Web.com, a website devoted to helping small business owners automate their business websites using WordPress, and get a steady stream of new customers from Google and Yahoo. In his leisure time Don enjoys learning to play Jazz piano, skiing, and wake boarding. He lives with his wife and two daughters in the San Jose, California where they enjoy traveling and exploring the Redwoods and the Pacific ocean beaches.

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Happy New Year, Every Week https://litemind.com/happy-new-year-every-week/ https://litemind.com/happy-new-year-every-week/#comments Tue, 01 Jan 2008 11:54:24 +0000 http://litemind.com/happy-new-year-every-week/ If it takes you one year between each time you think about your goals and your life, pretty soon you'll run out of years. Sad but true, but here are the good news.

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Happy New Year, Every Week

The beginning of the year is a great opportunity for a brand new start; it’s the time most of us set new goals and get all fired up and motivated again.

By the end of January, however, that feeling of freshness of the new year is long gone. Many of us don’t even remember the goals we had set, let alone achieve them. How can we keep that feeling of novelty throughout the year so we can follow through our goals?

Years Fly By

When we look back at the goals we set and forgot about, some of us may get a little disappointed but we all move on. Anyone can handle such a mild disappointment once a year. However, if we keep postponing our goals year after year, at some point life will eventually catch up with us: We don’t have many years to live.

If it takes you one year between each time you think about your goals and your life, pretty soon you’ll run out of years. Sad but true, but here’s the good news:

That doesn’t mean that your life is short:
it’s short only if you measure it in years.

Reviewing Your Goals Is Not Enough

What if we review our goals throughout the year, then? Traditional goal setting literature tells us that it’s critical that we not only set goals, but keep reviewing them. I wholeheartedly agree with that, but let me suggest something different.

Even if we review our New Year’s resolutions regularly, this always has a feeling of being an intermediate step. There’s no real sense of completion until it’s time to set new expectations again, at the next new year. Even if we review our goals regularly, we’re still in a “yearly mindset”.

In Search of a Better Life Heartbeat

What I am proposing here is dropping the year altogether as a unit of measurement for our goals.

What I realized is that yearly goals are out of sync with the rhythm of many of modern life’s demands. The year may be meaningful for farmers and their crops, but frankly, I think it does more harm than good anchoring personal goals around it. Years are way too spaced out; we may be better off with a shorter time unit to serve as our personal lives’ heartbeat.

Author Peter Russell goes all the way and measures his age not in years, but in days. From his website:

“[…] I can hold a day’s experience in mind quite easily. Trying to go back and take stock of a whole year is much harder. Numerous incidents and discoveries are inevitably forgotten.

I also find it far more meaningful to think that I have lived through nearly twenty thousand days this life, rather than 50 years. And it reframes the future. I have — probably — thousands of days still to come. Thousands of new days to discover, enjoy and learn from. […]”

The Week is My Best Shot

Although I find Peter’s idea of counting life in days truly inspiring, I doubt its practicality for most of us. What about tracking life in weeks?

The week is a great fit for most of modern life’s demands. It’s the shortest practical and meaningful cycle of our lives, both for personal life and work. If you think about it, there’s always a feeling of closure at weekends, as well as a feeling of “fresh start” on Mondays. For me, a week seems the perfect life heartbeat: it’s short enough to keep our goals fresh and active; and long enough to do something about them.

The challenge, then, is to promote the week to a first-class time cycle as much as possible. Some specific steps I am taking to raise my “week-awareness”:

  • Calculate age in weeks, not years. Just like Peter Russell described, counting life in smaller time increments has a strong psychological effect. I enjoy the feeling of knowing that every week is a great new opportunity to start afresh to achieve my goals. To help in the age calculation, there are many resources online, such as here or here. (At the time of this writing, I am 1624 weeks old.)
  • Use a week-based calendar. David Seah’s excellent Compact Calendar is a greatly designed calendar that focuses heavily on weekly planning — definitely worth checking out for everyone.
  • Use ISO week dates. Instead of ’01/Jan/2008′, how about ‘2008-W01-2’ (meaning: 2008, week 1, Tuesday). This is surely weird at first, but I’m really looking forward to using this date system. An ISO date converter will definitely come handy. Adopting the ISO 8601 Week Calendar has some interesting side effects, such as knowing the days of the week without needing to resort to cheap tricks. Note: for a long time I have been looking to adopting an eccentric geeky quirk— you know, like speaking Esperanto or using Dvorak keyboards. This is just the perfect opportunity. 🙂
  • Integrate goal setting in weekly and daily reviews. Although I am a regular practitioner of Getting Things Done reviews and love them, I was always concerned with the excessive focus on tasks and projects. Actively tracking goals will bring a new light to reviews.
  • Stay aware of new opportunities. Weekly thinking can create some interesting opportunities for personal growth. For example, I’m interested in how I can integrate holidays and other seasonal events into regular weeks. Wedding anniversary? A bit every week. Taxes? Keep records always updated. And so on.
  • Connect with vision and values more often. Remember that having short-term goals does not mean dropping your long-term vision. Since goals derive from vision and values, that will be an opportunity to be in touch with them much more often.
  • Fully integrate Kaizen as a way of life. The ultimate goal for all this is to create a better framework for making practicing Kaizen easier, meaning centering life around small, continuous improvement steps. By doing so, goals have more to do with evolving habits than with big one-time achievements.

A Brand New Start, Every Week

Of course the idea is not to completely forgo our yearly calendar — there are many aspects of our lives that are centered on it, and will continue to be so. But there’s no reason to buy the notion that goals have to be that way, too. By breaking free of the yearly mindset, you give yourself many more opportunities to start over — many more opportunities to follow through this time.

Happy New Week!

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One Small Step Can Change Your Life https://litemind.com/one-small-step-can-change-your-life/ https://litemind.com/one-small-step-can-change-your-life/#comments Tue, 11 Sep 2007 17:36:51 +0000 http://litemind.com/one-small-step-can-change-your-life/ How should you proceed implementing positive changes and making them permanent in your life? One Small Step Can Change Your Life is a nice little book that answers this question by showing a simple and effective approach.

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One Small Step Can Change Your Life - Mind Map

How should you proceed implementing positive changes and making them permanent in your life?

One Small Step Can Change Your Life is a nice little book that answers this question by showing a simple and effective approach. In fact, this approach is so amazing that I consider it to be nothing less than the greatest personal development tool when it comes to implementing changes that really last.

The Kaizen Way

The tool I’m talking about is small, continuous improvement – or Kaizen, as the Japanese call it. Although the concept was originally created to be used in factories and production lines, it really shines when used as a personal development tool. Its core idea is so simple that it barely needs any adaptation and can be summarized in a single sentence:

Commit yourself to continuously take small steps towards improvement.

If you make and maintain this one commitment, you’ll naturally overcome the fears and other psychological responses often associated with changes, such as procrastination and feelings of resistance. Instead of attempting to achieve increasingly larger steps, your challenge should be quite the opposite. In every step of the way, try answering the question:

“How can I take a step so small that it is impossible to fail?”

  • By focusing on making the steps as tiny as possible, you guarantee small successes you can build on and gain momentum.
  • By focusing on continuously answering that question, you lay out the foundation to transform the change into a new habit – which is the best way to implement effortless and sustainable life changes.

A Small Step Towards Kaizen

One Small Step Can Change Your Life BookIn the very spirit of kaizen, instead of trying to cover such a fascinating topic in detail all at once, I decided to take a smaller step instead: sharing a summary for the book I mentioned earlier – One Small Step Can Change Your Life, by Robert Maurer. The book is very readable and does a great job of introducing Kaizen in the context of personal development. It provides several strategies and useful insights on solving many challenges, such as starting an exercise program, stop overspending, and many others.

The book summary is formatted as a mind map – which is a great way to summarize a book, since it makes possible recalling it in 5 minutes or less whenever you want.

A Quick Note on Mind Map Formats

The book summary was originally created using the great MindManager software. This program remains open in my desktop most of the time, and I just couldn’t recommend it more.

But, despite all its greatness, not everybody is willing to invest money in a commercial mind mapping application. For that reason, I exported the file to the free, multi-platform FreeMind. While not as full-featured and usable as many paid solutions, it has a nice interactive online mind map viewer. Bear in mind that the interactive version does not contain all the graphics and formatting as the original – but you will be able to check out the book summary without downloading or installing anything.

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