(Video link here.) We recently came across this great talk by Joshua Foer that explores the success of “experts.” The video is 17 minutes, which we know is long, so we’ve culled the gist for you, hoping you’ll listen at some point; we think it’s truly useful and super interesting.
According to Foer and the scientists he draws from, becoming an expert has a whole lot more to do with psychology than innate ability. We generally push ourselves to achieve at a given skill only up to the point at which we can get the job done. Foer uses the example of typing—most of us type for at least an hour a day, yet we don’t get measurably faster…we settle into a speed we think is good enough. We hit an “OK plateau.”
Psychologists who study skill acquisition have found that experts across a wide variety of fields know that you can’t improve at something as long as you’re stuck on the OK plateau, and routinely use the four strategies below to ensure that their minds continue to climb uphill, so to speak. Even if you’re not striving to become an “expert” in your field, we think these strategies are helpful for anyone trying to pick up a new skill or practice, or get better at an old one. Here they are:
1. Operate outside of your comfort zone and study yourself failing.
2. Walk in the shoes of someone more competent.
3. Study constant feedback.
4. Treat your craft or skill like a science
Listen (you don’t need to watch) to the video for examples of each strategy.
We’ve written about Foer’s book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Turns out that he learned about these potent strategies while researching the book, and used them himself while studying to participate in the U.S. Memory Championship. He won the competition, so there must be something to it…
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