First published on Medium
Sep 25, 2017 · 4 min read
Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s research, many of us believe that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. Who has that kind of time? Sometimes we give up because 10,000 hours feels too daunting. What if I told you that you could get pretty damn good at anything in just three days?
My five-year-old son became really interested in baseball this summer. As a kid, I played baseball for three summers on a very serious team called ‘The Cathedral Cuties’ so I know how to hit and catch and run hard. I loved playing and teaching my son what I knew about baseball.
Like many things, I realized so much of the game is about our mindset. In just three days, he and I were both so much better at baseball, I was a bit astounded. I realized these principles can be applied to improving any skill in our lives. Here’s what we did:
Start with super easy stuff. We started really close to each other for batting and catching and throwing. It felt easy, we had wins. We felt good. Then we took two steps apart. And so on. Start small and get those good feelings in your body. Start out with small wins and progress forward from there. We had so many hits and easy catches that we believed we were good and sure enough, we were good.
Focus on what you want not what you don’t want. When we were playing a ‘game’ and I was pitching and he was at bat, my son would get anxious when he had two strikes. We talked about focusing on a hit and feeling excitement about getting a hit rather than fear about striking out.
Our feelings generate so much energy and that energy moves us towards whatever we have the biggest feeling about. Super excited and positive energy draws things towards us, super fearful and worried energy also draws things towards us. The good news is that you can only hold one feeling at a time so if you can focus on what you want and have strong feelings about what you want rather than what you don’t want, you’ll get that instead of what you don’t want. Envision what you want, imagine it and feel the feeling of having it fully in your body, then go for it.
Keep doing it. This is the most important part. It’s both the simplest and the hardest strategy. When you want to improve, you have to practice. We spent a few hours every day playing baseball. We had fun and we got way better. How can you make time to do whatever you want to get better at? It doesn’t have to be hours. Research has shown that even ten minutes of exercise a day helps improve our health, even five minutes a day of writing improves our writing. Commit to yourself and what you love doing. Give yourself ten minutes to do what you love and want to get better at.
Move towards what you fear not away from it. When I was teaching my son to catch, every time the ball came towards him, no matter how close I stood or how slowly I threw it, he flinched. And he never caught the ball. We talked about what the worst thing that could happen was. He’d get hit. Maybe even in the face. That would be the worst. Then we talked about how much it would hurt and for how long. We realized it probably wouldn’t hurt very much or for very long. Then he was less afraid. He was still afraid but he moved towards what he was afraid of, knowing he could live with the consequences. He leaned into what he was afraid of and there was less fear. Most importantly, we examined the fear, pulled it out from under the bed and took a good hard look at it and realized it wasn’t that scary. The fear no longer stopped him. Think about what you’re most afraid of and why and you’ll find it’s less scary than you think. Better yet, your fear won’t stop you anymore.
Get yourself set up for success. Every time my son went up to bat, I’d remind him to set his feet shoulder width apart and get his bat in the right position. When he was set up correctly, he almost always got a hit. What do you need to do to set yourself up for success?
Have fun with it. I loved playing baseball with him because he was having so much fun. Neither of us was caught up in getting it perfect, we were just enjoying playing and being together. When you take the pressure off, relax and enjoy, you often get better results.
It’s not 10,000 hours, you may not get to be an expert, but you might just get pretty damn good. Let me know how it goes.