Cultivate Your Expertise

“If you want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, along with frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures.”

After another great read thanks to LinkedIn, I happily spent a few moments of my morning contemplating professional expertise, baptisms by fire (the theme of all my jobs), and the pleasant fact that I’m one of those in the office who seems to be tackling more than humanly possible.

I’ve always believed that the best way to experience (life, work, relationships) is to do (think Satre, think being, think forward action). This is fundamentally rooted in my philosophy education. I’m an empiricist when it comes to things that deal solely with physical and/or material forms—anything that has a tactile, sensory quality that fuels our experience of it—anything we build, which extends to technology in the twenty-first century—anything that is not lost in the gray of spiritual existence. Think John Locke. If you aren’t a philosophy junkie, think construction and placement and space—think about the things you do in life that require interaction with objects. What I’m getting at is that being human is a sensory experience, it requires that we do—something, not just that we are—something. This morning’s LinkedIn article brought me back to all these thoughts. Why? It merged the scientific study of performance with philosophy: Deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice means we learn through doing. This gives a whole new perspective to the inhumanly possible work load: it’s fueling the development of skills and cultivating expertise. It also liberates us. Want to be good at something, anything? Just do it, and keep doing it. It’s the same message our high-school coaches and band teachers told us time and time again: if you want to get good, you practice, you do. That parlays into desk jobs. If you want to get good at strategic planning start being strategic (analyze and track) and start planning. If you want to get good at building spreadsheets start using excel. Heck, a few years ago there was a need in my job position to learn HTML, so I started a personal blog to play with codes in a work-free zone. This allowed me the space to try new things and fail, which cultivated a beautiful HTML platform to bring to the work desk. What I didn’t know then was that I was in the midst of “deliberate practice,” and in this moment that awareness has made all the difference. (Fellow philosophy students, I was about to write differance, but I resisted.. another time. Wink. Wink.)