One of the best pieces of advice I have heard for achieving your goals is this: make sure to be consistent.
Many popular authors have written about the need to accumulate 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field. This maxim was the subject of the book Outliersby Malcolm Gladwell, and also features heavily in Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent Is Overrated.
If you think about it 10,000 hours is a lot of time. If works out to about three hours every day for ten years! Not surprisingly, it turns out that you must be extremely deligent in your practice if you want to achieve mastery in a discipline in any reasonable amount of time.
For me, the important point of this research is that it shows the value of being consistent. The best violinists aren’t necessary the ones who showed the most talent at age eight (although that certainly helps), more often they’re simply the people who have been consistent in their practice. Similarly the best chess players aren’t those who have the highest IQ, they’re the ones who day in and day out have put in the hours to master their skills.
As a student the main domain where I am tested is in my performance on exams. Just like learning the violin, or playing chess, doing well in academic work is mainly the result of putting in the hours to deeply learn the material. Yes, some degree of natural ability is important, however more often than not consistency is far more important.
This realization really applies to all fields. When I was a kid I used to play the Nintendo 64 game Mario Kart obsessively. After a while it became apparent that I could beat just about anyone at the game. This wasn’t because I had any innate ability to be good at Mario Kart (as evidenced by my poor performances on more recent racing games) it was simply because I had practiced more than others.
One of my favorite bloggers, Scott Young, has written an article called ‘Step One is Showing Up’. In this article Scott points out that often people fail at their goals at the very first step– making sure to show up! If you want to get fit, you must make sure to consistently go to the gym. If you want to get better at math, you must make sure to consistently tackle problems.
This blog is just getting started but I already know that if it’s ever going to grow I must be consistent with my writing. For the next thirty days my goal is to maintain an average of posting at least once every second day. On it’s own this won’t be enough to create a succseful blog but it is the first step.
Is there any goal that you’re working on that could benefit from more consistent practice? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.