The 4 Rituals That Will Make You An Expert At Anything

In Summary:

  1. Get Help: Find a mentor who can help you develop that image in your head of the best way to do something.
  2. It’s Not “Try Harder”, It’s “Try Different”: Design specific activities to address your weak points.
  3. It’s About Doing, Not Knowing: Remember the three F’s: Focus, Feedback, Fix it.
  4. Study The Past To Have A Better Future: Find examples that have been judged and quiz yourself.

Expertise takes a lot of hard, solitary work. That can be difficult to get motivated for. But this is where friends come in. Surround yourself with people who love and support you.


First, the “10,000 hour rule” is not a rule and it’s not an exact number. The amount of time varies from field to field. It’s an average. But it’s always a lot and more is better.



In most domains it’s remarkable how much time even the most “talented” individuals need in order to reach the highest levels of performance. The 10,000 hour number just gives you a sense that we’re talking years of 10 to 20 hours a week which those who some people would argue are the most innately talented individuals still need to get to the highest level.


1) Find a Mentor

The first step is social. You need to know what to do:


They need to talk to somebody that they really admire, a person that is doing something in a way that they would like to eventually be able to do. Have this person help you identify what it is that you might need to change in order to be able to do what that other person is doing. Interview that person about how they were able to do it, and then have that person help you identify what is it that you can’t do right now and what are the steps towards reaching that desired level of performance.


The secret here is “mental representations.” You want to be able to clearly and specifically visualize the right way to do something in your head.



What sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and quantity of their mental representations. Through years of practice, they develop highly complex and sophisticated representations of the various situations they are likely to encounter in their fields… These representations allow them to make faster, more accurate decisions and respond more quickly and effectively in a given situation. This, more than anything else, explains the difference in performance between novices and experts.

So you need a clear idea of what it is you’re trying to do, whether it’s playing an instrument or performing an appendectomy. The clearer your vision of it, the better you’ll be able to detect and correct mistakes.


***Once you have an idea here about what it is that you want to produce, then you can now start working on trying to be able to generate that experience. That requires a representation about what it should sound like. Then, when you try to do it, you’re going to find that there are going to be differences between the representation and their performance. Those differences you can now focus on and eliminate.

And you want to keep improving those mental representations as you learn, creating a clearer and clearer image of every detail.



2) It’s not “Try harder”, it’s “Try different”

***Anders says the biggest problem most people have with getting better at something is that they’re not actually trying to get better at something.

Doing something over and over again does not necessarily make you better at it. If it did, we would all be excellent drivers. Repetition is not expertise.

***To improve, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Anders says this is one of the most critical things to remember. Mindlessly going through the motions does not improve performance.When you try to get better at something is it fun? Yes? Congratulations, you’re doing it dead wrong.

Anders cites a study where they talked to singers after practice. Who was happy? The amateurs. The experts were pushing themselves. It was hard. And they were tired afterwards, not elated.


Work on your weak points.


First, figure out exactly what is holding you back. What mistakes are you making, and when? Push yourself well outside of your comfort zone and see what breaks down first. Then design a practice technique aimed at improving that particular weakness. Once you’ve figured out what the problem is, you may be able to fix it yourself, or you may need to go to an experienced coach or teacher for suggestions.


Have specific goals. Not just “I want to be good at business”, but “I want to engage my audience better at the beginning of presentations”


3) It’s about Doing, not Knowing

One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that knowing equals doing. It doesn’t.


***Once you have the knowledge, you need to focus on building the skills. Remember the three F’s: Focus, Feedback, Fix it. 

***You need to concentrate on having your execution match your mental representation. Then you need objective feedback on how well you performed. Then you need to analyze what you did wrong and how to do it better. 

***Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress.



4) Study the Past to have a better Future

***Look at examples of work that has already been evaluated. Can you detect the errors? Or what was done well? This is a good way to develop your mental muscles and improve your skills when feedback is scarce or slow.


***When’s the best time to do the work needed to get better? First thing in the morning, when you’re fresh.


***Often it’s ideal to make that the first activity of the day. Then you can basically move over and do whatever else you need to do. I think that constraint of for how long you can actually sustain this deliberate practice, where you’re really attending 100% and stretching yourself to really change, that that time is actually limited.


The 4 Rituals That Will Make You An Expert At Anything

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