How to Become Good at Anything

I wish I’d … (fill the gap yourself) when I was young. Do you regret that you did not learn to play piano or study some language when you were younger? Well, don’t. If you do not have the willpower and persistence to do it today, you probably did not have it as a child either. The good news is, if you did possess this quality in your childhood, you probably also have it today and thus can start with your new hobby right away.

The most common excuse for not doing anything – “I do not have the time” – does not really hold. When I was in Jordan, it really amazed my how the muslims have unshakable perseverance to pray 5 times a day. No matter the circumstances, they always found that time and place to go and pray. Now if hundreds of millions of people find 10 minutes 5 times a day every single day in their life, then the chances are that you would find this hour 3 times a week if you really want to learn something or become good in something.

And if you have the willpower to start with a new hobby or habit, then there are only two important things you have to consider:

1) Consistency brings growth. It is much better to study 30-45 minutes a day 4 times a week than say, 3 hours once a week. Mastering a new skill is 5% learning and 95% repetition and by repeating it as often as possible you make sure that the things really stick. With hobbies such as running this is pretty straightforward, but the principle also holds for whatever other hobbies you have. It is only the constant repetition that will imprint the necessary knowledge and skills into your nervous system and make you  subconsciously competent in the areas such as playing chess, speaking chinese or cooking delicious food. And be prepared to put many hours into it.

That's the way to do it! Design from http://epherielldesigns.com/

2) Contrary to popular suggestion, DO NOT have the end goal in mind. Instead, learn to enjoy the process. I really think it is not possible to become really good in something without enjoying the process. I’ve been studying Spanish for two years now and put some 500+ hours into it. If it would have been just for the sake of obtaining another language I probably would’ve quit a while ago. But I really enjoy the progress I make – the moment when you speak with a spaniard and (s)he does not speak english, but spanish, back to you, the moment when you hear this song “Tengo la Camisa Negra” and you suddenly realise how ridiculous the lyrics are, the moment when you actually start reading es.wikipedia.org for articles related to the Latin countries. You need to learn to enjoy these everyday gains because otherwise the chances are that you’d run out of steam way to soon.

And there is yet another good reason to start with something new – the people with hobbies are just so much more interesting than people without. So, do not start tomorrow, start today. Then in two years, you will wake up and discover that you suddenly do not have to feel sorry that you did not learn to play piano when you were young. Because now you can play it.

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3 thoughts on “How to Become Good at Anything

  1. Should we start learning spanish to enjoy your blog posts in the future as well?:)

    Very simple and clear post – I totally agree with your points. I also find it amusing to see how well can I learn some new stuff about things that really interest me.

  2. I totally agree.
    And I can actually add something that I’ve learnt doing the Leadership Program in QLD Health – if you have problems finding the hour every day, the key is to start off by dedicating 5 minutes to the new/newly found hobby. And you have to find this 5 minutes (or more) for the hobby (or even just a task) for 21 days in a row. It takes 21 days of repetition to turn something into a habit, apparently. And the key is, as you say Lauri – you’re more likely to stick with it, if you enjoy the process.
    Great post, Lauri!

  3. If you want you can practice Spanish with me , maybe I will be in Estonia the ext year and I´d like to know a little bit of your language.

    Greetings from Mexico 🙂

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