How To Get Good At Something

There’s a message from someone who asks about how to be good at something. They are wondering what they need to do to get good. Here’s their question:

So, I would really like to be good at something. It seems like a lot of people have special talents, but I am one of the few people that wasn’t born with that special talent. I’m sure practicing helps, but I tried to practice already with a few things like painting, basketball, singing, and running, but they didn’t really work out that well. I really just want some suggestions for some things that are easier to get good at.

You Are Already Good at Some Things

If you have the capacity to speak, walk, talk, and post this question online, then you are already good at some things. You likely know how to communicate with words, write, go on the Internet, and interact with other human beings. So understand that you are already good at some things and don’t short change yourself.

How did you get good at these things? One day you just started trying them over and over until it became natural. When you look at a baby who is trying to crawl, you’ll see them wiggling and trying to move. They won’t succeed for a while. I remember watching my two kids do this. But they tried it every single day and didn’t give up and one day they were really good at crawling. Then they got really good at walking by just trying it over and over relentlessly.

Time and Repetition

Time and repetition are the two key things to getting good at something. There’s a 3rd key to get good at something that I will outline later. This will show you how to get good at something fast. But to start with – if you’re trying to become good at running, the best thing you can do is put on your running clothes and shoes and get out there and run. Run until you feel like you are getting fatigued and then stop. How far did you go? Rest, then do it again.

In the case of this person asking the question, I’m willing to bet that they didn’t spend enough time and repetition to get good at the things they were trying. I watch my kids and sometimes when they are learning something new, they get discouraged and quit. You can’t do that. Enjoy the process of being a complete newbie at something. I’m learning to sing and play the guitar and I’m still a newbie at them. But I am getting better slowly and I enjoy learning. To this person asking the question, enjoy the learning process, especially when you are starting out.

How to Get Good at Something Fast

There’s a key to get good at something fast. And that’s deconstructing the 20% of that thing you want to get good at that will give you the 80% of your results. Every single skill is like this – there are basic – 5 principles or so that learning and understanding will help you become pretty good at that skill. The rest becomes the details to fill in to round out the skill and become a master. That part takes much longer.

For instance, I have no doubt someone could become a good HTML web developer, programmer, basketball player, or runner if they spent 20 solid hours focusing on the key principles for each of these. Let me outline the key principles for each of these that someone could use to become good at them. All it requires is 20 hours of focus without distraction on them Р20 hours of practice and integrating these principles so they are second nature.

How to Be a Good HTML web developer

  • Understand how to use text documents, save files, and save a text file as an HTML web page
  • Understand the basic structure of how HTML is formatted in a text file
  • Learn the basic tags that make up an HTML web page
  • Learn how to add images to an HTML web page
  • Learn how to create links to other pages from an HTML web page

How to Be a Good Programmer

  • Understand what a computer program is – it’s like languages we speak – there are many that a computer can understand
  • Learn what software you can use to write your first computer program
  • In the program, learn how to write any kind of text to the computer, like “Hello There”
  • Understand what functions and variables are
  • Understand what FOR, IF, and ELSE are

How to Be a Good Basketball Player

  • Understand the basic rules of the game so you can play without violating them
  • Learn to shoot and make an open shot
  • Learn to dribble without using two hands
  • Learn to stay between the person you are guarding and the basket
  • Learn to pass to a person when they are not blocked by their defender

How to Be a Good Runner (the Exercising kind of running)

  • Make sure you know how to walk first
  • Get a good pair of running shoes
  • Learn to stretch your ankles, calves, hamstrings, and quads
  • Learn to warm up slowly
  • Move your body at a slow jogging pace and work your way to moving faster as you get more stamina

There are details associated with each of these, but those details are very much doable in 20 hours so long as you focus on them. The point of this is that you can deconstruct any task like this and show someone the minimum they need to get good at something.

How Long Does It Take to Master Something?

If you want to master something, this takes a lot longer. If you look at the key principles for each of these topics that shows how to get good at them, there are missing details in each of them. There are core concepts and necessary things required to truly be a master at them.

When I look at myself, I’ve done programming and web development for about 12 years now. I’m a master at web development, but it took me about 8 years and now that I’m a manager at my day job, I am starting to miss out on the new developments in what makes a master web developer. It takes a lot of time and dedication to be a master and to retain that master status requires lifelong pursuit and effort.

This is how you get really good at something. You first grasp the core principles that make up the skill. Once you have those integrated in your memory such that you can recall them as quickly and easily as your favorite movie quote, then you’re ready to tackle the advanced topics and details that make up the rest of that skills. This becomes the lifelong pursuit of mastery in that topic.

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