Business Times, p.B1
Saturday, November 29, 2008
LEARNING & INNOVATION
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm
Prep yourself to succeed
This question could be answered two-ways. How does a person work towards his or her own success? How do others, especially a parent or a corporate leader, help their child or subordinate succeed?
Let's concentrate on the first answer. If talent and brain-food pills will not guarantee success, what could you do to become successful? Let's consider these best practices by successful people studied by Fortune Magazine senior editor at large Geoff Colvin.
• "The great performers isolate remarkably specific aspects of what they do and focus on just those things until they're improved; then it's on to the next aspect. Instead of doing what we're good at, we insistently seek out what we're not good at." Practice and practice deliberately. Do not just practice as in increasingly repeat what have always been doing. Remember what Albert Einstein once said that doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is insanity. Deliberate practice means continually setting higher standards from your current abilities and practicing them. When you think you are doing a good job, it is time for you to do something else. For example, when practicing, Tiger Woods would create certain difficult situations and practice overcoming them; he has been seen to drop golf balls into a sand trap and step on them, then practice shots from that near-impossible lie.
• "Repeating a specific activity over and over is what people usually mean by practice, yet it isn't especially effective. Two points distinguish deliberate practice from what most of us actually do. One is the choice of a properly demanding activity just beyond our current abilities. The other is the amount of repetition." Practice, practice, practice. When you are able to do 10, then go for 20 until you could do that activity with your eyes closed.
• Welcome feedback and don't shoot the messenger. "You may believe you played that bar of the Brahms violin concerto perfectly, but can you really trust your own judgment? In many important situations, a teacher, coach, or mentor is vital for providing crucial feedback." It is okay to look at the mirror, and judge our own reflection. However, there are aspects of ourselves that we don't see readily—our blind spot—and we could benefit from another person's point of view and standard of quality. For example, you can't tell if you have bad breath, others easily could.
• "Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it "deliberate," as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in. Practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in one and a half hours." If you want to succeed, treat everything that you do as a mental activity, not just physical. Tiger Woods don't just hit that ball, he thinks long and hard before he swings his club. He learns, acquires and practices new knowledge, skills and attitudes.
• "If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and no one could distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won't do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more." Success is hard work requiring mental preparedness, intellectual commitment, strategic focus, deep concentration, physical exertion, emotional involvement, long hours and continuous raising of the bar, among others. Working towards success is not for the weak and faint-hearted. If you are starting to enjoy your current job, it is time to move on to the next level.
• "In the research, the poorest performers don't set goals at all; they just slog through their work. Mediocre performers set goals that are general and are often focused on simply achieving a good outcome—win the order; get the new project proposal done. The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but rather about the process of reaching the outcome." And after setting your goal, the next steps are action planning and doing your plans. "Again, the best performers make the most specific, technique-oriented plans. They're thinking exactly, not vaguely, of how to get where they're going."