How To Be An Expert: 8 Proven Secrets To Superior Skill

This post was from Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Sum Up

Here’s how to be an expert at anything:

  • Be in it for the long haul. Find me something else that creates a 400% boost in results. Please.
  • Find a mentor. Wax on, wax off, Daniel-san.
  • Start with what’s important. Bedside manner is great but I’ll take the surgeon who focused on where to cut, thanks.
  • “Train like you fight.” Don’t practice drunk. But if you do…
  • Use “desirable difficulty.” Easy in, easy out. Your brain encodes info better when you struggle.
  • Get fast, negative feedback. Listen to SEALs. If they’re not experts, the result is much worse than when you screw up.
  • Study less. Test more. Test before the test and the test will go better.
  • Naps are steroids for your brain. You’re not “sleeping on the job”, you’re “passively synthesizing skills.”

The #1 Predictor Of Expertise

How long are you going to be doing this?

Committing in advance to being in it for the long haul made all the difference. Even when practicing the same amount, those who made a long-term commitment did 400% better than the short-termers.

With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. The long-term-commitment group, with a mere twenty minutes of weekly practice, progressed faster than the short-termers who practiced for an hour and a half. When long-term commitment combined with high levels of practice, skills skyrocketed.


Find A Mentor

*From personal experience, this is extremely helpful

Your mentor needs to care about you:

In great mentorship relationships the mentor doesn’t just care about the thing that you’re learning, they care about how your life goes. They are with you for the long haul. They are willing to say, “No,” and to tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Those kinds of relationships yield outsized results in terms of future salaries and happiness.


What makes a good mentee? Someone who is willing to challenge your mentor and push back a little

Start With What’s Important

Don’t just start anywhere. Ask yourself what 20% of things you need to do to give you 80% of the results you want? 

“Train Like You Fight”

Keep your practice as similar to the real thing as possible. If your exam/test is going to be underwater, then practice your stuff underwater

Not only will you be better prepared, but you learn much better when the context you practice in matches the context you will eventually perform in. How strong is this effect? Insanely strong.


Use “Desirable Difficulty”

Reviewing material is one of the most popular forms of learning. Guess what? It’s also one of the least effective.Researchers call this “the fluency illusion.” Just because it’s easy to remember right now doesn’t mean it will stay that way. “Desirable difficulty” means that the harder you work trying to retrieve something from memory, the better you learn.Don’t merely reread stuff. Practice like a medical student and quiz yourself with flashcards.

You need to struggle. Whether it’s memorizing information or practicing a sport or skill, you want your practice to be challenging.

We learn when we’re in our discomfort zone. When you’re struggling, that’s when you’re getting smarter. The more time you spend there, the faster you learn. It’s better to spend a very, very high quality ten minutes, or even ten seconds, than it is to spend a mediocre hour.


Get Fast, Negative Feedback

  • Get feedback and think/talk about what you can do better next time.
  • Reflect on how you’re doing. Ask yourself if what you have been doing so far is working.

When they do something, whether it’s good or bad, they take time for reflection. They asked themselves “Was it difficult enough? Was it too easy? Did it make me better? Did it not?” It sounds simple and sounds facile, but I think we don’t do it. We naturally gravitate toward increasing comfort in everything we do in our jobs. We become more efficient and we fall prey to that efficiency. That’s a disaster. When all your efforts are things that you can do easily and without thinking about them, you’re not going to improve.


Study Less. Test More.

Keep the “Rule of Two-Thirds” in mind. Spend only one third of your time studying. The other two-thirds of your time you want to be doing the activity. Testing yourself.



If you want to, say, memorize a passage, it’s better to spend 30 percent of your time reading it, and the other 70 percent of your time testing yourself on that knowledge.



In fact, testing is actually a better form of studying than studying.


Naps Are Steroids For Your Brain

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not learning as well as you could be.


  • Aren’t able to get enough sleep? Take naps instead

What else does being a master at something make you?


People who deliberately exercise their “signature strengths” — talents that set them apart from others — on a daily basis became significantly happier for months.

from Tumblr

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