Developing High Self Esteem Through Work And Play

In my last blog, we were able to pinpoint that repetition is the mother of all skill. Today, we’ll further dive into ways that can help start developing high self esteem.

Practice Does Not Make Perfect

Taking action repetitively is indeed critical, but it turns out not all types of practice make you perfect. If you’re practicing the wrong things, it doesn’t matter how much you practice, you could be just wasting your time and not gain any significant results. 

Author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule in his book “Outliers,” which states that in order to master a craft or skill you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it. While useful and perhaps enlightening, it turns out that Gladwell’s theory is slightly flawed.  

K. Anders Ericsson, the lead author of the study that Gladwell sites as an exhibit in support of his 10,000-hour rule says that Gladwell invented this 10,000-hour rule and describes Gladwell as making a “provocative generalization to a magical number.”

Among other factors, the study by Erickson and his co-authors looked at two groups of musicians – violinists and piano players – and what kind of practice contributed to their level of achievement.

Erickson actually stated, “Ten thousand 10,000 hours was the average of the best group; Indeed, most of the best musicians had accumulated substantially fewer hours of practice at age 20.” By age 18, the best violinists and the best pianists had accumulated an average of 7,410 hours and 7,606 hours of practice time respectively.

So in addition to the 10,000-hour rule being overstated, the problem with Gladwell’s claim is that he skims over the type of hours spent on the activity which was as follows:

  1. Deliberate practice – Training designed to improve performance.
  2. Work – Any type of participation motivated by external rewards, such as pay. 
  3. Play – Any type of participation that was inherently enjoyable and had no explicit goal.

For both the pianists and the violinists, the amount of deliberate practice, in comparison to the amount of other types of participation in the activity, and the “optimal distribution of deliberate practice… to avoid exhaustion and burnout” had the strongest effects on reaching an elite level of performance.

In other words, it wasn’t the accumulated number of hours that determined success, but the types of activities those hours were devoted to, and how these were allocated across time and balanced with other uses of time such as leisure and sleep.

The 10,000-hour figure is mentioned in reference to how the authors “examined the effects of over 10,000 [hours] of deliberate practice extended over more than a decade.” But they did not find that 10,000 hours was the magic number of greatness that Gladwell claims. 

Instead, they found that it was quality of time, rather than quantity of time, that made the most difference in levels of achievement, and that the high performers accumulated approximately 8,000, not 10,000 hours of practice.

Since deliberate practice is the determining factor of the best musicians in the world, let’s focus on that. Now remember this one:

Deliberate practice is doing the things that you’re not good at over and over until you’re good at them!

So how is this different from the “One Thing” or “Sequencing” of dominos you need to knock over in order to make everything else easier or unnecessary?

While the “One Thing” may be an overall goal or skill, deliberate practice develops this skill, which helps you knock over that one domino. For instance, a musician’s “One Thing” might be one hit song, which will knock down thousands of other dominos and make things easier or unnecessary.  

But in order to write that 1 hit song, the artist would need to get really good at writing hit songs, which means writing great lyrics, melody and the music behind the song. If for instance, the songwriter lacked lyrical talent but had all the other skills, then they would need to deliberately practice writing lyrics over and over until they became really, really good at it.   

Similarly, for an author, the “One Thing” or “One Domino” may be to write that one book that goes viral or makes it to the New York Times Best Seller list. But let’s be realistic here because feedback from a good coach may uncover some other shortfalls that need improvement, like the use of expressive language that leaps off the pages and into the ears of its readers. If this were the case, the writer would need to deliberately practice writing expressive language over and over until they became really, really good at it.  

Jen Sincero wrote her first book “Don’t Sleep With Your Drummer” in 2002 and went on to write several other books with lackluster results. Fortunately, she deliberately practiced helping lots of people and translating those lessons into expressive writing until 10 years later she wrote “You Are A Badass,” which sold over 3 million copies. Needless to say, within a short period of time, knocking over this domino completely transformed her entire world and made everything easier or unnecessary. 

Lastly, for a man who is challenged with approaching women or striking out on their own, their “One Thing” may be gaining more confidence. But underneath that “One Thing” most certainly lies an underdeveloped skill required to knock down that confidence domino. This my friend… is deliberate practice; one of the master keys that separates successful people from the herds of unsuccessful people.

If you really think about it, it makes perfect sense. Most people aren’t that successful because they just don’t want to practice the things they are not good at. It’s so much easier to practice the easy stuff or in the case of a musician, to noodle around or play somebody else’s song. Unfortunately, doing the easy things anyone can do is not going to knock over the important dominos and help you find your buried treasure.  

When billionaire John Paul DeJoria, who co-created John Paul Mitchell salon products was asked: “What is the one thing you attribute your success to,” he responded by saying:

“Doing the things nobody else wanted to do and doing them well”

To become a great musician Eric Clapton locked himself in his room until he could play the most challenging songs, chords, and riffs he could find. Elton John’s mother forced him to take lessons as a child while his teacher helped him to learn how to play the difficult stuff, which he then practiced to perfection.  

The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain, Michael Jackson, and many other artists became successful not because they practiced their asses off, but because they practiced their asses off at the stuff that was difficult, the stuff that they were not that good at.

This deliberate practice thing applies to every aspect of life. In sports, both Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were superstars because they worked tirelessly on the things they were NOT good at. For Michael Jordan, it was free throws and for Tiger, it was the sand trap.

Keep this in mind as you perfect your passion. When you start practicing and you find something difficult, pause, take a deep breath and slowly practice it over and over and over until it gets easier.  

WARNING: There will be times when you feel like giving up and giving in to distractions.

We’ve all been there.  It’s the end of a long hard day and all you want to do is curl up and melt into the couch with a bag of chips and a TV clicker. Or maybe a friend hits you up to go drinking and you just can’t say no. And let’s not forget about those sweet treats and savory scents that hooked you like a fish and reeled you into a food coma while siphoning off all your confidence.  (Can you say garlic crusted pizza or chocolate covered vanilla cream donuts?)

Some may call this lack of willpower or lack of self-discipline and while this is true the roots of self-discipline are multi-causal and will require tools from all three levels of the triad if we are to follow through, achieve our goals and find our buried treasure instead of getting fat, sick and depressed.   So first, we must answer a very important question:

Why Do We Give Up Our Willpower & Discipline?

In the first level of the triad giving up is particularly challenging because of two big distractions – food and entertainment – both of which trigger dopamine and make us feel high.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with food and entertainment, when it comes to stacking victories, more often than not they can be a burden rather than a boost.

Making matters worse, even before you take a bite into a juicy treat your brain anticipates a spike in insulin and energy and lowers your blood sugar levels, which makes you crave the treat even more.

Unfortunately, dopamine released in response to or anticipation of a reward doesn’t discriminate between a night of Netflix and a triple cheese pizza or stacking a victory and knocking down your most important dream domino. In fact, studies show that a rush of dopamine pushes you towards instant gratification and plays down any chatter about negative consequences.

Dopamine’s goal is to drive you to take action and move towards a prize whether that be a donut, a romp in the sack, a video game badge or the completion of a new business that makes $10,000 a month on autopilot.   

Unfortunately, this reward seeking behavior can turn disastrous when marketers with multi-million dollar budgets start to take advantage of it and bombard us with ads and products that trigger dopamine and distract us from stacking victories.

For example, I just mentioned video game badges, but did you know that video game makers intentionally create experiences that raise dopamine to amphetamine like levels? What else would explain the ever-increasing revenue of a $100 billion plus industry built on products, which with rare exceptions, reduce confidence and create anti-social behavior?

If you’re at all unsure about that last statement consider professor Ryuta Kawashima, of the Tohoku University in Japan and his team who demonstrated these findings by measuring the brain activity of hundreds of teenagers while they played a Nintendo game. When measured and compared against another group doing simple arithmetic the results showed that, unlike the math exercise, the computer game did not stimulate the brain’s frontal lobe, an area that plays an important role in the repression of anti-social impulses and is associated with memory, learning and emotion.

But overstimulation and distraction don’t just stop at gaming.  Dopamine activation is built into just about every industry including merchants that advertise liquor with images of couples frolicking on the sun-drenched beaches of the tropics or electronic stores that tempt you with a new gizmo, which allows you to sip soda without getting out of bed.

And who could forget about all the “likes” and “hearts” we so desperately seek on social media platforms.

If you simply stop for a second to think about the insane amount of overstimulation from dopamine inducing triggers we experience on a daily basis, it’s no wonder we give up and give in to distractions.

Needless to say, we should continue pushing forward and fight through the urge to give up. If you’d like to learn more, check out the top-selling book Get High On Confidence by Chad Scott here.

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