How To Become A Billion Times More Skilled

Flickr / catherinedncr
Flickr / catherinedncr

I like stealing from people.

Their knowledge at least. Each time I read a new book it’s like I’ve downloaded their brain into my own.

I just finished reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

He talks about the “Resistance”—the evil voice of self-doubt that constantly creeps into your mind. The Resistance is a product of your ego. The Resistance’s only aim is to keep you from doing the work you were called to do. There’s only one way to defeat the Resistance—doing the work.

I always feel the resistance. I felt it when I woke up this morning. The night before I start a new week I’m confident. I tell myself I’m going to have a great week—that I’ll go 7 for 7 and complete everything I set out to do each day.

The Resistance says, “OK. We’ll see.”

Without fail, I wake up every Monday morning and the resistance is ready to pounce.

“You’re not that good.”

“Becoming a great writer will take forever. Give up.”

“Look at all of the writers you look up to. You’ll never be anywhere as good as they are.”

I never feel confident to start the day. But I tell myself to do the work and I manage to get through it most of the time.

So far I’ve been able to keep going because I’ve done everything I can to remind myself that long-term thinking is the key to getting what you want. I’ve even learned there might be a hint of scientific fact when it comes to living the life you want.


The Power of The Power Law

Success isn’t mysterious. It’s mathematical. The more time you spend improving your craft, the higher your chances of having creative breakthroughs. This is due to the power law.

The world’s top artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders know the power of the power law. This is why they persist even when things don’t seem to be going their way. They know that toiling away at their craft will eventually lead to explosive growth.

In the book Zero to One by Peter Thiel, he talks about the importance of the power law when it comes to our life and career. He says that instead of “diversifying” by having a wide range of mediocre skills (i.e., a multiple-page resume with tons of “extracurricular activities”), we should instead focus in one area in order to take advantage of the power law.

If you look at the math it’s hard to argue against.

When it comes to becoming great at what you do, one plus one equals more than two.


How To Become A Billion Times Better At Your Craft

This idea came from a post I read from James Altucher about becoming “one percent better” each day. According to the power law, if you become one percent better each day at what you do, by the end of the year your skills will have become 38 times better. Pretty good!

I took this idea and combined it with the popularized “10,000 hour rule” that says you reach a higher plane of creativity and skill after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

Depending on how much you work per day, achieving 10,000 hours of practice will usually take ten years. I did the math on getting 1% better on a daily basis for ten years according to the power law. It came up with a number so high the calculator couldn’t spell it out.

I wanted to see how many days it would take to increase your skills by a ridiculous yet fathomable number. I chose 1 billion percent.

Any guesses?

It would take you 2083 days, a little bit shy of six years, to increase your skills times one billion. Is this an exact measurement? Of course not. The point is to illustrate the power of focusing on doing the work each day until you reach breakthroughs. If you put in the work day in and day out for that long, the person you started out as wouldn’t be able to comprehend the person you’ve become.


Fighting Through The Dip

All of this sounds good, but actually taking the time to get 1% better each day takes a level of commitment most of us haven’t made or aren’t willing to make.

I try. I wish I could say I write 7 days a week and become 1% better each day, but so far that hasn’t been the case. Some weeks are 3/7, 4/7, 6/7 maybe, but staying consistent is a bitch.

When I’ve only gotten two hours of sleep because my daughter was up all night, the last thing I want to do is get up and write. But moving forward I’ll have to remind myself the power of showing up and getting better.

I have to fight through “the dip” to take full advantage of the power law, and so do you. The dip is the point where people quit just before they are about to succeed. They’re thinking linearly—that the next step will only increase their skills or chances of success by the same amount as the last step.

They ignore the power of the power law. Once you make it through the initial phase of doing the work (over and over and over and over and over) one day your skills will experience a steep rise. When you hit explosive growth you can put your foot on the gas pedal, leaving your doubts, fears, and anxiety in the dust.

Where are you on the curve?
Where are you on the curve?

Fight The Resistance

We’re in a constant battle with The Resistance. Every day you get a W or L in the column. You don’t lose if you have self-doubt. You only lose if you fail to show up, do the work, and try to get better.

I write about ways to combat the resistance because I struggle with it every day of my life. So does each one of you. It’s easy to scoff at the idea of mastering your life. It’s easy to complain rather than to do. It’s easy to stare down the tunnel of the future and decide the light at the end isn’t worth the work.

I’m no better than you. I’m mainly writing this for myself. I know what I want and I know the resistance is standing in the way. I know my life would be OK or even good without working toward my dreams.

But I don’t want my life to be just OK. I think if we’re all honest with ourselves we know that none of us wants that. A life lived without sharing your gifts with the world isn’t much of a life at all. The results and outcome don’t matter. But whether or not you shared definitely does.

Your first blog post won’t be very good, but your 1,000th one will be great.

Your first business might fail. But maybe you’ll strike gold on your third.

The first few hours of practice will yield little visible results.

There’s no way around being a novice.

But one day you’ll be a master.

I’m doing my best to stay on the path to mastering my skills. I’ve only been writing for about a year. The thought of what it requires to become great makes me have second thoughts about trying—almost every day. But I keep going. Why? Because I love it. To know what I want to do with my life and to avoid it is sinful.

I don’t want to end my life with regrets, and I don’t want you to, either.

Will you join me? TC mark

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