Steve Jobs told Stanford students that when he wakes up each day he tries asking himself:
“If this were my last day on earth, would I be happy with my to-do list.”
And if his answer is “no” for three or four days in a row, he does something about it.
Well, a goal in my life is to help people explore their passions, ideally in a way that helps them make a living.
I thought I’d share three steps that I used to further my own career passions.
Ok, so let’s dig in…
It starts with picking a passion — your passion may be obvious to you ( politics, sports, medicine, photography religion) and you’re good to go.
If your passions are not obvious to you, ask those closest to you (friends, colleagues, family members) what they think. …
I just finished reading an amazing book called The Talent Code (I recommend it to any person wanting to further develop their talent).
The author Daniel Coyle visited the the talent development programs responsible for some of the top talent in the world, such as:
But you don’t have to attend one of these talent pools to improve yourself.
Coyle says that the key to talent development is a neural insulator that we all have inside us called myelin.
He argues that every human skill — whether its leadership, computer programming, sports, music or anything else — is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying signals.
And it is myelin that wraps layers around these fibers…and there are certain things we can do to increase the thickness of this myelin, resulting in faster and more accurate movement and thoughts.
He recommends a few approaches to increasing your myelin (and thus your talent).
Focus your practice on repeating core skills, attend to your mistakes, practice those skills again.
“Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement.”
The “Ten-Year, Ten-Thousand Hour Rule” is indeed valid — This finding from 1899 stated that world-class expertise in every domain (whether it’s cello, chess or tennis) requires roughly a decade or 10,000 hours (that would be about 3 hours a day, every day for a decade).
It’s the Ten-year rule that is often used in developing talent in young people (many parents try to time the beginning of a child’s practice of a skill to be about 10 years before that child will peak physically.
That’s why some children are best to start practicing certain skills when they’re 5 to 10 years old).
Did you know that comedian Jerry Seinfeld practiced his first Tonight Show set 200 times beforehand, according to this awesome profile of Seinfeld in the New York Times.
Overall, Coyle identifies three tips for improving practice:
Coyle points out that ignition is key to developing talents — it’s a secret source of energy that we can tap into.
“I Want To Be Like Them”
There are examples of entire countries being “ignited” by the display of talent of one individual.
For example, in South Korea’s case it was on May 18th, 1998 when Se Ri Pak won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship — she was the first to do so from her country.
Pak “ignited” many women in her country as shown by stats over the following 10 years later: by 2007, 45 players from South Korean had one about one-third of the LPGA Tour events.
Anna Kournikova is Coyle’s other example of “I want to be like them.”
That same summer of 1998, Kournikova reached the Wimbledon semifinals and became an overnight sensation (her good looks certainly helped).
Russia was ignited and within 10 years the World Tennis Association Top 100 was home to five times as many Russian tennis players.
Ignition can come in other forms — one study showed that an extremely high percentage of political leaders (Ghandi, Caesar, Napoleon, Bill Clinton) had one thing in common: they had lost their parents at a very early age.
Coyle reasons that the leader group’s loss of a parent triggered a primal cue that they were no longer safe…and that unlocked a massive energy source for them to tap into.
He points out that of history’s fastest runners, for example, they were on average the fourth child of 4.6 children — in other words, there is a pattern of the younger you are in your family, the faster you can run.
In this case, the primal cue is” You’re behind, better keep up!”
Finally, Coyle says that a “master coach” is key to developing talent.
He says that a master coach possesses the following virtues:
I was thrilled that Coyle identified John Wooden, my favorite coach/teacher, as an example of a master coach.
I hope you enjoyed these highlights on developing talents…but I only just scratch the surface of Coyle’s amazing book.
Last year I attended an amazing workshop called Coach for America led by former NFL player (and now coach and Minister) Joe Ehrmann — Joe mentioned something that truly changed the way I think about my life.
He referred to a study of older people who were in the “twilight” of their lives; and the study asked these wise elders a powerful question:
“What do you wish you had done more of in life?”
Their answers were profound. Here they are:
What do I mean by “legacy?”
I like this definition from Dictionary.com :
“anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor”
This really resonates with me. As I get older, and read more about smart folks who’ve lived longer than me (Benjamin Franklin, Warren Buffet, Charlie Munger come to mind), the subject makes more and more sense.
A legacy is your gift to those who will follow you — does it get any more important than that!?
Examples of legacy:
One recent legacy item I worked on was a book of 40 learnings I had by the time I turned 40. I wrote it just for family and friends (not to sell) and it was an amazing experience.
I love the fact that my nephew or niece might pick it up off their bookshelf one day after I’m gone and find some value in it.
When I heard old people wished they had reflected more, I have to admit I scratched my head.
Afterall, if they’re in their twilight years don’t they NOW have plenty of time to reflect?
But then I sat with it for a bit…and it made sense.
Old folks wished they had more often gone to the proverbial “top of the mountain”…to think!
In business, I call this zooming out.
I believe that arguably THE #1 challenge that business-people have is taking the time to zoom out, get altitude.
A mentor of mine Ralph calls this time “sitting under the apple tree.”
In fact, if you read my How To Innovate: The Five Things Top Innovators Do, you’ll remember that the most effective thing you can do to innovate is to “Connect” or “Associate” things that you’re observing in life. That’s certainly a lot easier to do if you’re “sitting under the apple tree.”
One way innovators reflect more is to travel outside their country — that really allows you to reflect on your life.
Old folks also wished they had take more risks in life. This old adage comes to mind:
“You don’t regret what you do, only what you didn’t do.”
I’m not just talking about physical risks/extreme sports type stuff — like when I jumped out an airplane in New Zealand or hanglided in Rio, Brazil (neither of which I’ll choose to do again!).
I’m talking about the many day to day things that I’m trying take more risks on including in my career, relationships and hobbies.
A simple rule I’ve come up with is: “If I have some activity or event I’m thinking about doing — and I’m 50/50 on it (with the alternative being just to do nothing/stay at home, etc. — I try hard to choose to do the activity. I’ve never regretted making such a move.
I do, however, regret some things I didn’t do or simply doing nothing.
So, is there a…
I was so enamored with these three things that old folks wished they’d done more of in life that for the first few weeks after I heard it, I used them as the outline for my To-Do List every day.
I’d write down:
Listen to your elders!
I heard a cool thing listening to a GetAltitude interview of Brendon Burchard by my business partner Eben Pagan in my car this week– Brendon mentioned four things an expert needs to do to be successful.
I love frameworks so I’ve listed the four items that Brendon mentioned below along with my take on each.
Listing just the framework felt dull so I decided to give an example of each step using the topic of “Social Media? (since Social Media “Experts” are high in demand these days).
An expert needs to break down the abundance of information available to most people into just a handful of key bullets.
For example, if you’re an expert social media, you might suggest to your listener that the four social media tools to focus on are:
You need to tell customers what things mean and why they are important.
Continuing on the Social Media example, you would tell your audience that social media is critical to their business because it can generate half of their Web site traffic.
And this traffic can be unpaid (i.e. you don’t have to pay direct advertising costs to do it).
Experts should focus on how different pieces of something work…as well as how they all work together as a whole.
For example, you might tell your customer that the different Social Media platforms work in the following ways:
A good expert shows their audience the future.
E.g: You can tell your audience that you predict that their Web site will have the following as the top five traffic sources by the end of 2010 if they follow your advice:
If you work on these four things, there’s no doubt you’ll improve your reputation as an expert in your field.
Thanks for the idea, Brendon!