In discussing Expertise, practice, and the myth of talent it is inevitable that someone asks if they could be the next Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. Is it possible, at their age, to drop everything and learn to be as good or greater than two of the most iconic players of our age. And they groan when I tell them yes. They stomp their feet and they clench their fists–that would explain the typographical errors. The disparity seems so distant when they compare their (self-assessed) non-existent skills with those of phenoms.
Why is it that these names are legendary?
Are they indeed Experts?!
HOW DID THEY GET THAT WAY?!
They are freaks of nature. NO. They are unnatural.
You see, if we attribute their skills to pedestrian ideas like
interest, practice, and coaching
then what you are saying is that anyone can do it.
Well, guess what?
Unfortunately, you cannot do it the way that you read about in newspaper articles and in books written by newspaper journalists.
You have to work at it. If you want to be like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or any of other wonderful male or female athletes in the world, you need to possess (or decide to possess) the one thing that put the needle on the record for these individuals. You need to have interest.
Interest is a key component to developing a level of Expertise in a field. It is the thing that sustains you through mistakes and failures. It is also the thing, strangely enough, that goofs up the retelling of that early story of more and more practice. Why? Because when you have interest, practice does not always feel like practice. Other activities that contribute to your skills seem less of a chore when you know that you will get to enjoy the object of your affection shortly thereafter.
Interest pays off, too. You see, when you are interested and the practice seems like fun and the supporting activities and decisions do not seem so bad and all the exercises come together in the moment of performance…
…bang goes the dynamite–you have gotten better and that feels really gooooooooood…
and the next time you practice, which is probably that night or early the next morning–assuming you are not practicing in your mental space while lying in bed–you cannot wait to get better again.
What will be the next great thing that appears?
When someone tells me that they’ve tried basketball or golf or singing or martial arts or visual arts or writing or whatever…
and they stink at it
and they “don’t mind admitting it”
my first thought is that they are not really interested. And my advice is to find your interest and pursue it.
Find that thing that feels like nothing at all and do that…
…do that really well.