Skill Mastery

In “Making of an expert”, K. Anders Ericsson in the Harvard Business Review of July 2007 details three well accepted conditions for expertise:

1. Delibrate Practice
2. World class coaching
3. Enthusiastic family support

Other good links on mastery I hope to combine into an article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greatness

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expert

Read the Masters:
http://www.federicopereiro.com/masters/

“Abel changed the face of mathematics, despite dying at 27… When asked how he developed his mathematical abilities so rapidly, he replied ‘by studying the masters, not their pupils.’”

Good and Bad Procrastination
http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html

…the most impressive people I know are all procrastinators… they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.  What’s “small stuff?” Roughly, work that has zero chance of being mentioned in your obituary. It’s hard to say at the time what will turn out to be your best work, but there’s a whole class of tasks you can safely rule out: shaving, doing your laundry, cleaning the house, writing thank-you notes—anything that might be called an errand.  Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.

The most important lesson I ever learned.
http://sivers.org/compass

There’s a compass in your gut that points two directions : EXCITING and DRAINING.

No matter what advice anyone gives you – no matter how smart the person telling you what to do – you need to let this compass override your other decisions.

Whatever excites you, go do it.

Whatever drains you, stop doing it.

Yes, the people who said he should know all that stuff meant well, but nothing is worth losing your enthusiasm.  NOTHING!

You have to pay close attention to that compass, even in little day-to-day decisions.  You get offered a gig – they’re on the phone waiting for an answer – is it exciting you or draining you?  To make a new website is going to take about 10 hours of work.  Does that excite you or drain you?

If it doesn’t excite you, don’t do it.  There’s almost nothing that you MUST do.  Someone somewhere is excited to do the things that drain you.  Find them and let them do it.  Work towards this ideal, and soon you’ll be doing only what excites you the most, all day.  Then you’ll find that doors open for you, opportunities come your way, life seems to go easier, because you’re doing what you’re meant to do.

The Top Idea in your Mind
http://www.paulgraham.com/top.html

I’d say it’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower…  I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That’s the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they’re allowed to drift freely. And this idea will thus tend to get all the benefit of that type of thinking, while others are starved of it. Which means it’s a disaster to let the wrong idea become the top one in your mind.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me 5 Years Ago

http://blog.amirkhella.com/2011/02/23/what-i-wish-someone-had-told-me-5-years-ago/

I created more fear of not starting than the fear of starting. I realized that every day I waited a customer was not getting my solution, and a competitor was getting closer to that solution before I did. I even imagined my worst nightmare if I’d failed to take action: I was Milton from Office Space, tucked in the corner cubicle of Innotech, staring at my red stapler, and waiting for my next paycheck.

Idleness Aversion and the Need for Justifiable Busyness
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20548057

We show in two experiments that without a justification, people choose to be idle; that even a specious justification can motivate people to be busy; and that people who are busy are happier than people who are idle. Curiously, this last effect is true even if people are forced to be busy. Our research suggests that many purported goals that people pursue may be merely justifications to keep themselves busy.

I Forgive Myself, Now I Can Study: How Self-forgiveness for Procrastinating can Reduce Future Self-procrastinating
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886910000474

Among students who reported high levels of self-forgiveness for procrastinating on studying for the first examination, procrastination on preparing for the subsequent examination was reduced.

Feyman’s Nobel Ambition
http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~kilcup/262/feynman.html?repostindays=413

 ”Now that I am burned out and I’ll never accomplish anything I’m going to play with physics, whenever I want to, without worrying about any importance whatsoever… Within a week I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air… I had nothing to do, so I start to figure out the motion of the rotating plate…. This equation [eventually led to me getting] the Nobel Prize.”

 Give it Five Minutes:
 http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3124-give-it-five-minutes

“And just as Steve loved ideas, and loved making stuff, he treated the process of creativity with a rare and a wonderful reverence. You see, I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.”

Why I Quit Being so Accommodating:
http://mikecanex.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/1922-why-i-quit-being-so-accommodating/

“I am persuaded that no one ever achieves anything worth-while in this world unless he has so great a respect for his work that he compels all other men to respect it. Unless, in a word, he commands his time.”

Believe You Can Change:
http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/dweck

“But what shocked her — and changed the course of her career — was the behavior of the successful kids. ‘Everyone has a role model, someone who pointed the way at a critical moment in their lives,’ she later wrote. ‘These children were my role models. They obviously knew something I didn’t and I was determined to figure it out.’”

Heretics, G.K. Chesterton

A man who is perpetually thinking of whether this race or that race is strong, of whether this cause or that cause is promising, is the man who will never believe in anything long enough to make it succeed. The opportunist politician is like a man who should abandon billiards because he was beaten at billiards, and abandon golf because he was beaten at golf. There is nothing which is so weak for working purposes as this enormous importance attached to immediate victory. There is nothing that fails like success.

Secret Ingredient for Success
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/opinion/sunday/secret-ingredient-for-success.html?_r=0

…the most common response [to failure is] single loop learning — an insular mental process in which we consider possible external or technical reasons for obstacles.  Less common but vastly more effective is the cognitive approach that Professor Argyris called double-loop learning. In this mode we… question every aspect of our approach, including our methodology, biases and deeply held assumptions. This more psychologically nuanced self-examination requires that we honestly challenge our beliefs and summon the courage to act on that information, which may lead to fresh ways of thinking about our lives and our goals.

How to Become Rich Even if Nobody is Following You on Twitter
http://maxkle.in/how-to-become-rich-even-if-nobody-is-followin

The core strategy is this: optimise for time. Answer this question – with the skills you have, can you make some product that makes you $1 a day? That’s $30 a month. I once made a video hosting website and put 30 ninja videos on it. Adsense money was about $1 a day. I wrote a desktop software once, and priced it at $29.90. I sold one copy a month, which was terrible. That’s $1 a day…  Now comes the trick: If you make 400 things making $1 a day, you will be making $12.000 a month. This is the mental repositioning that needs to be made to follow this strategy. It’s not about how to make a lot of money with a project, it becomes a matter of how to optimise your time and selected projects so that you can make 400 of them within the shortest possible period.

Those Less Motivated to Achieve Will Do Better on Tasks Seen as Fun
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100119133519.htm

Those who value excellence and hard work generally do better than others on specific tasks when they are reminded of those values. But when a task is presented as fun, researchers report, the same individuals often will do worse than those who say they are less motivated to achieve.

Brain Crack
http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2006/07/071106.html

Each day I live in mortal fear that I’ve used up the last idea that’ll ever come to me. If you don’t wanna run out of ideas the best thing to do is not to execute them. You can tell yourself that you don’t have the time or resources to do ’em right. Then they stay around in your head like brain crack. No matter how bad things get, at least you have those good ideas that you’ll get to later.

…the bummer is most ideas kinda suck when you do ’em, and no matter how much you plan you still have to do something for the first time – and you’re almost guaranteed the first time you do something it’ll blow. But somebody who does something bad three times still has three times the experience of that other person who’s still dreaming of all the applause. When I get an idea, even a bad one, I try to get it out into the world as fast as possible…

Getting Over Embarrassment and Getting It Done
http://community.protoshare.com/2011/04/getting-over-embarrassment-and-getting-done/

Suppose you come in and you’ve got to put together [your art] and show it to a world-class, famous animator. Well, you don’t want to show something that is weak or poor, so you want to hold off until you get it right. And the trick is to actually stop that behavior. We show it every day, when it’s incomplete. If everybody does it, every day, then you get over the embarrassment. And when you get over the embarrassment, you’re more creative.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me 5 Years Ago
http://blog.amirkhella.com/2011/02/23/what-i-wish-someone-had-told-me-5-years-ago/

I created more fear of not starting than the fear of starting. I realized that every day I waited a customer was not getting my solution, and a competitor was getting closer to that solution before I did. I even imagined my worst nightmare if I’d failed to take action: I was Milton from Office Space, tucked in the corner cubicle of Innotech, staring at my red stapler, and waiting for my next paycheck.

Ang Lee and the Uncertainty of Success
http://jeffjlin.com/2013/02/23/ang-lee-and-the-uncertainty-of-success/

looking at the Ang Lee story now, who wouldn’t want to trade places: what’s six, seven, ten, even more years if you knew it would result in massive worldwide commercial and critical success? It’s common to hear “follow your bliss” or “do what you love and success follows.” Sounds great, right? Except here’s one small detail: You never get to know if it’s ever going to happen. You don’t get to choose if and in what form the success manifests; you don’t get to choose when it arrives….  Much is made of genius and talent, but the foundation of any life where you get to realize your ambitions is simply being able to out-last everyone through the tough, crappy times — whether through sheer determination, a strong support network, or simply a lack of options.

Connections Don’t Build Things
http://benyu.org/connections-dont-build-things

…The best course of action is to not look for the people that can make our dreams come true, but to just start working on those dreams. There’s a good chance that the right people that can help us realize our dreams will gravitate to and chance upon us naturally as a result of seeing what we’ve started.

Relax!  You’ll Be More Productive
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html

The Stanford researcher Cheri D. Mah found that when she got male basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent.

Daytime naps have a similar effect on performance. When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap — and slept an average of 19 minutes — they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.

Longer naps have an even more profound impact than shorter ones. Sara C. Mednick, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that a 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep.

MORE vacations are similarly beneficial. In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.

As athletes understand especially well, the greater the performance demand, the greater the need for renewal.

Quotes

We acquire a sense of worth either by realizing our talents, or by keeping busy, or by identifying ourselves with something apart from us – be it a cause, a leader, a group, possessions and the like.  Of the three, the path of self-realization is the most difficult.  It is taken only whne other avenues to a sense of self-worth are more or less blocked.  Men of talent have to be encouraged and goaded to engage in creative work.  Their groans and lamentations echo through the ages. ——— Action is a highroad to self-confidence and esteem.  Where it is open, all energies flow toward it.  It comes readily to most people, and its rewards are tangible.  The cultivation of the spirit is elusive and difficult, and the tendency toward it is rarely spontaneous.  Where the opportunities for action are many, cultural creativeness is likely to be neglected.  The cultural flowering of New England came to an almost abrupt end with the opening of the West..  The relative cultural sterility of the Romans might perhaps be explained by their empire rather than by an innate lack of genius.  The best talents were attracted by the rewards of administrative posts just as the best talents in America are attracted by the rewards of a business career. -Hoffer

There are but two roads that lead to an important goal and to the doing of great things: strength and perseverance.  Strength is the lot of but a few privileged men; but austere perseverence, harsh and continuous, may be employed by the smallest of us and rarely fails of its purpose, for its silent power grows irresistibly greater with time.  -Goethe

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

Every time a resolve or fine glow of feeling evaporates without bearing fruit, it is worse than a chance lost; it works to hinder future emotions from taking the normal path of discharge.

We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar. …Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out. -W. James

The most important predictor of success is determination…  In most domains, talent is overrated compared to determination—partly because it makes a better story, partly because it gives onlookers an excuse for being lazy, and partly because after a while determination starts to look like talent. -Paul Graham

http://community.protoshare.com/2011/04/getting-over-embarrassment-and-getting-done/

suppose you come in and you’ve got to put together animation or drawings and show it to a world-class, famous animator. Well, you don’t want to show something that is weak, or poor, so you want to hold off until you get it right. And the trick is to actually stop that behavior. We show it every day, when it’s incomplete. If everybody does it, every day, then you get over the embarrassment. And when you get over the embarrassment, you’re more creative.

Your Goals Are Holding You Back
http://danshipper.com/159185755

Setting firm goals and keeping track of what you’re doing is a problem for beginners. It risks your self-image when it’s at its most vulnerable: when you’re trying something new. If during the first few days or weeks of coding you fail to reach a goal, either because your willpower is depleted or your goals were unrealistic, it’s easy to feel your self-image being threatened. Your fear center kicks in: what if I’m not as smart, and talented and special as I thought? And then it says to you: it’s better I stop trying than find out. And so your willpower is gone, and you’re right back where you started.

Setting goals and keeping track of your progress is putting the cart before the horse. It is certainly a part of getting better at what you do. BUT it’s not Step One in the process.

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