Heard you need constant improvement to become a master? Heard you need those 10,000 hours of practice?
It’s hogwash. A goal of ‘constant improvement’ won’t lead to success. I learned this when I signed up for Damn Fine Words, James Chartrand’s writing course.
Signing up excited me. I was excited because I was taking action towards my goal of ‘constant skill improvement’ so I could further build my business.
The first half of the course taught me a lot. This was the most valuable part – a complete writing system, an approach that could be used to take any project from start to finish.
I also liked learning with other students. Seeing how they approached lessons taught me different angles.
But then I stopped.
Halfway through the course, I stopped doing the lessons. Stopped posting to the forum. At first, it was innocent – just one lesson I’d ‘get around to on the weekend’.
But one turned into two, and two into three. Three turned into five.
Of course I felt guilty. It didn’t help that James had just asked, “Do you stick to your commitments?” (No.) But I still didn’t do the work.
Why not? Why did this happen?
I achieved more immediate goals.
I’m a practical person. So I had other goals to work on beyond ‘constant improvement’.
I’d wanted to publish a report I was working on so I could bring in more business. And I used the first lessons of Damn Fine Words to help me write my report. I got focus and structured it properly.
The report got a lot of compliments.
Then I landed a new project that paid $1,000 – a decent sum. Again I used the Damn Fine Words approach, and completing this project was easy.
But suddenly I had nothing concrete to work towards. I had gotten more than I hoped for from the course, and we were only halfway in.
Other goals seemed more important.
Constant improvement is a weak goal.
Can you picture what ‘constant improvement’ looks like? What are the benefits? What about mastery—where do you see yourself after those 10,000 hours of practice?
That’s what I thought. All I picture coming from 10,000 hours of writing is a sore hand.
But I could picture the benefits of other goals. So I achieved them and celebrated. And then stopped working to improve, because the goals I’d accomplished were damn good.
“No more instruction needed for now, thanks. I’ve got other priorities.”
Yet that’s a lie. I thought I was a decent writer a year ago. I wasn’t. And one year from now, I’ll look at this post and cringe.
So instead of ‘constant improvement’, I chose a better goal: A new project that challenged me and that kept me sticking to the course.
It let me work towards something tangible – something more than a meaningless image of 10,000 hours. And it kept me constantly improving, just as I’d originally wanted.
How about you? When you sign up for a course, do you have projects to work on? What do you do when you run out of motivation?