Daniel Coyle, author of several bestsellers including The Talent Code and The Little Red Book of Talent and thought leader on achievement, agrees with most experts on performance that there are no short cuts to success.  “The 10,000 hour rule (10,000 hours of practicing) is as vital today as it ever was.  There’s no getting around it…you must put in the time.”

But Coyle is interested in more than people becoming success.  He’s interested in people becoming masterful…people becoming the best.  “To become the best, we must align our practice, our effort with the way our brains are designed to learn…we must learn to practice ‘the right way.'”

Here are seven ways that Coyle suggests will help us get to the level of mastery the right way.

  1.  Be uncomfortable.  According to Coyle, we learn best when we’re really reaching, really stretching ourselves to the edge of our ability.  Coyle suggests that spending 10 minutes of “struggling high quality” practice, or even 10 seconds, is much more useful than spending an hour of mediocre practice.  “Practice at the edge of your ability, reaching over and over again, making mistakes, failing, reaching again and again and again.
  2. Stop reading.  Start doing.  Coyle’s new “Rule of Two Thirds “suggests that we study what we want to be doing 1/3 of the time and that we do what we want to be doing 2/3 of the time.  “Be doing,” says Coyle.
  3. Stay in the sweet spot.  When training or practicing, the sweet spot of improvement is thought to be a success rate of 60-80%.  If you’re successful more than 80% of the time, what the learning is too easy.  If you’re successful less than 60% of the time, the learning is too hard.  Go for the sweet spot on the learning curve and keep upping the challenge to stay in that 60%-80% zone.
  4. Commit to the long term. Coyle sees commitment as the game changer in people’s quest towards becoming the best.
  5. Find a role model.  Coyle thinks that one of the powerful things you can do is to watch the best people work.  It builds an attitude of “Look, they did it.  I can do it.”  He believes that brains are built to learn, to study “the best to be the best.”
  6. Take a nap…it’s a steroid for your brain.  Taking a nap is one of the habits of the most successful, the most masterful people in any field, according to Coyle.  “Naps are high performance activities…they’re like a janitorial service for our brains…they help clean out the stuff we don’t need and help us work on ideas while we’re asleep.”
  7. Keep a notebook.  Top performers track their progress, their goals, their reflections upon their mistakes.  Coyle says that we need maps to improve.  “It’s one of the most underused yet powerful tool that I could imagine anybody using.”

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