When I read the book Bounce by Matthew Syed, it literally blew my mind. It is without doubt one of the best books I have ever read and if there is any book I would recommend that you read, let it be this one. It made me fundamentally change my views on everything I have ever thought about talent. I learned the truth about talent and how to be amazing at anything!
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” ~ Malcolm Gladwell
Before I read the book, these are some things I used to frequently say:
‘ I am terrible at languages’
‘My brother got the maths brain, I was better at sport’
‘My family are all really arty, but I have no talent for art’
They are beliefs that were deeply embedded in me and that I really thought to be true. I thought that we are born gifted at certain things such as music, art, sport or languages. Look at Mozart and other child prodigies. How can you explain their talent if it wasn’t something they were born with? How can you be that talented that young if it wasn’t a gift from birth?
All these thoughts changed after I read Bounce. Matthew Syed lays out some of the most talented people in the public eye. Mozart, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Picasso to name but a few. What is the one thing they all have in common? Yes, they are hugely talented at what they do, but it’s the amount of practice they put in that got them to where they are. They all started out at a young age and put in hours and hours of dedicated practice.
Syed goes on to explain it’s not just the amount of hours of practice, but the type of practice. It has to be focused and dedicated and aimed at improving yourself, not just aimlessly spending time doing what you’ve always done.
How can you be at amazing at anything you set your mind to?
It’s easy, there are 3 key steps:
- Put the hours of practice in (Syed recommends 10,000 hours to become an expert)
- Make the hours of practice purposeful
- Adopt a positive mindset about what you can achieve
If you decide what it is that you want to get talented at and dedicate 10,000 hours of purposeful practice, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
I decided to review the theory on myself. I previously spent 6 months trying to learn Spanish and didn’t get anywhere fast. I have analysed why and come up with these 3 reasons:
- I put a negative label on myself
I labelled myself as not being naturally gifted at learning languages, and someone who struggles to grasp a new language even after practise.
- My practice was half hearted
When I look back at how I was studying Spanish, it was not at all purposeful. I was afraid to practise speaking in Spanish for fear of looking stupid and I was listening to audio tapes in the car, so I would often lose my concentration.
- I didn’t dedicate enough time to it
I studied for 30 mins about 5 days a week, but realistically this was not enough to achieve any level of fluency in a short amount of time.
How have I turned it around?
- Dedicated more time:
- Use Duo Lingo every day
- Practise speaking and messaging with my Spanish friends
- Watch as many films as I can in Spanish with English subtitles
- Rewatch films again and again in Spanish
- Read Spanish beginners books
- Made the practise more purposeful
- Show complete focus when I am practising, not being distracted by other things
- Put myself out of my comfort zone to learn more quickly
- Ask for feedback, and make corrections, but don’t let it demotivate me
What are the results?
My Spanish has improved significantly and continues to do so. It turns out that I can learn a language, I just needed to dedicate time and put in the right sort of practice.
How can you make it work for you?
- Choose the area you want to become talented in
- Research a training strategy
- Put in the hours of purposeful practice
If you follow these 3 simple steps, you’ll be amazed at the outcome. I’d love to hear your views of where you have tried this and how it went.
Mel is the founder of Bestselfology (www.bestselfology.com), a blog that explores how to become the best version of yourself in all aspects of your life. You can follow Mel on Facebook (www.facebook.com/bestselfology) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/bestselfology)