I’m reminded by Alexandra Levitt that practice makes perfect. Lots of practice. In Outliers, she reminds me (a book I read!) that to get seriously good at what you do, you need to practice at least ten thousand hours. Ten thousand.
In Outliers, there are many examples of this in action, including the diversity of studies to popular culture. My favorite example was the Beatles. You would think they just became an instant, overnight success, but the reality is they spent a great deal of time in Berlin doing two shows a day — and they weren’t one hour shows. Yup, they got their ten thousand hours in Berlin where they honed their skills, achieved the required discipline to succeed and figured out what worked and what didn’t. It was practice.
In the work world, we need to immerse ourselves into building our job skills to stay relevant to the work world. That means we need to build our employment security, not our job security. The problem is we don’t often think about “practicing” our job skills; we simply use them to get the job done. But practice is different then performing. Practice means you take a structured look at what you do and then practice doing specific components of it to improve your skill.
The inevitable sports analogy comes here. One doesn’t just go out and play the game. Instead, you practice your skills. If you are a quarterback, you practice throwing passes, handing off the football and reading defenses. If you play golf, you practice your drives, your irons, your short game and your putting.
Hitting ten thousand golf balls out of a sand trap will go a long way to helping you get out of sand traps when you play an actual round.
The practical problem with practicing your job skills is we rarely think about the process we use on our jobs. Or how the work flow works. We don’t break down what we are doing to a level that would allow us to measure our efforts, determine what needs improving and then have a safe way to practice those components to help us improve. Sports teams and individuals have practice facilities. We have none.
I had a client who had on his resume “10,000 hours writing scripts” as part of his job skills. I’m certain the number of hours was low. I’m also just as certain that a hiring manager would take one look at that job skill and, for the right job, think that heaven and earth just opened up to save the day.
What components of your job skills should you practice today?