Building Skills - Getting Better
We all use skills.
I was a Army Draftee in the Infantry during the Vietnam War. By the time I had spent 11 months in Training, Practice, and Application, I was a pretty good Tough Guy, and a Staff Sergant ready to lead troops in Combat.
I had Skills. (That was 55 years ago. I still have some of those skills, but lack of practice has made most of them just memories.)
I've been playing Guitar for 65 years. I still play pretty much as well as I did way back when.
I've been playing Golf for 40-years or more. But, because I don't really Practice, I'm just getting worse...
I've been training Adults for 50-ish years as a volunteer, or as a career. At one time I was one of the top 1% of trainers in the Boy Scouts of America.
All this is to add Context to this Skill Discussion.
We often just get along. In order to get Better, Practice!
1. Set Goals. Know the End State.
What is the Skill? How will you know when you're "Better"? What must you demonstrate to know you are "Better."
2. Learn the Fundamentals.
Start at the beginning. Learn the foundations of the skill before trying the advanced stuff.
Playing a Musical Instrument, Writing, Shooting, Fitness, Cooking, Woodworking, Art, Using Tools, Gardening, Athletics, Yoga, Martial Arts, Etc, all have some fundamentals required to master to be competent. You don't just start in the middle and Tah-Dah!
3. Deliberately Practice the Fundamentals.
We know about Scales for musicians. On Purpose, Play the Scale #1, then #2, etc. Be Deliberate in your Practice.
One of my employees from years past was a skilled Martial Artist. He had one of those Striking Trees that simulated an opponent. He was lightning fast at hitting all the designated areas. He was Practicing the Fundamentals of that discipline.
He didn't get lightning fast at first. He Deliberatly Practiced Hitting Area 1 with his stance and arms and hands in a deliberate configuration.
With Guitars, I Deliberately Practice Chord #1. I Deliberately Practice Chord #2. I Deliberately Practice moving from #1 to #2. To a beginner or non-player, those chord changes are magic. For me, they are Fundamental and Deliberate.
4. Increase Speed, Power, Precision,
Start Slow. Get that Fundamental well learned. Then, do it Faster, or Harder, or with More Precision.
5. Practice with "Live" Situations.
By adding Realism, your skills encounter unexpected Situations, and you learn to adapt.
6. Use the Skill. Then Evaluate.
Do it in a controlled situation. Do it in a novel situation.
Evaluate? How did you do? What did you do right? What needs Improvrment? How will you Practice to get that improvement?
7. Add Nuance. Add Advanced Aspects.
This is just a continuation. You've mastered the Fundamentals. Now add more levels of Skill & Practice.
8. Evaluate Details. Focus on Improvement.
If you're going to do a thing, get Better, and Better at it. What is your area of weakness? What is holding you back? How can you improve?
9. Make Adjustments. Then Evaluate.
Did the adjustment work? Did it make it easier? Better?
10. Use the Skill in a Variety of Settings.
Variety might be the Spice of Life, but using your skill in new, different, or unique situations locks it in.
If you're practicing in your Basement, move to your yard. Gardening in Pots? Try real dirt.
If you are practicing being better at running, enter a local race.
11. Practice, Practice, Practice. Take Breaks. Practice Some More.
Even the Best In the World at something, continues to practice. Why? To continue being the Best.
Renowned Violinist Jascha Heifetz said: "The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience."
Kobe Bryant practiced his Basketball Fundamentals 4 or more hours every day.
Learning a Skill is a Process of Learn, Attempt, Evaluate, Repeat.
Learn First. Go Slow. Get Good. Then Increase Speed, Power, Precision.
Don't practice the "Wrong", practice the Right.
Don't let your last Practice Attempt of the day end in Failure or Poor Performance. Get It Right.