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How to Improve Any Skill

How to Improve Any Skill


Take a moment to think of a skill in your life that you would like to improve. Perhaps you want to become a better musician. Perhaps you dream of being a sharper writer. Perhaps you make movies, run marathons, or learn languages. Whatever the case may be, you’re probably well aware of the age-old adage “practice makes perfect.”

Practice is, without a doubt, the key to improvement. No matter what skill you thought of back in that first paragraph, the odds are astronomically good that you can look back and see a clear progression of improvement that corresponds with how much you practiced.

But, maybe the old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ doesn’t quite capture the nuance of the situation. Here’s another fact you probably noticed about your improvement in that skill: it is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Think about the very first time you picked up your guitar, or your camera, or your language textbook. By the time that first day of practice was over, you were infinitely better than when you had started. (Even if that improvement was only learning to play a few chords!)

The first week of practice probably also made a huge difference in your skill level. And so did the first month. But nowadays? Now that you are a seasoned musician, filmmaker, etc, the odds are good that one day of practice doesn’t make nearly as monumental of an improvement. With time, your improvement has likely plateaued.

At this point, continued improvement can appear impossible–and using your current practice methods, it likely is. The key to continued improvement is not continued practice, but a revolution in the way you practice.

In order to continue improving, you need to take a risk and begin practicing in a way that is new and challenging–otherwise your skills will flatline. For a runner, this might mean adding a core strength program and changing your diet. For a language learner, it might mean finally taking that trip you’ve always dreamed of. For a writer, perhaps finally submitting to a literary journal. And for musicians and filmmakers, finally offering your art in a public and commercial setting such as may give you just the nudge you need in order to continue pushing the limits of what you can accomplish.