Becoming an anything

Becoming an expert

I often do school talks with young people. One of the talks I like to guide is designed to help students develop a stronger work ethic and some self determination. I usually guide these talks by asking the kids questions, “How many of you would like to become an expert at a particular thing, like a sport, or musical instrument or a particular branch of science?”

Most kids, picturing themselves as future athletes, will raise their hands.

I continue, “If you want to become an expert at something, like martial artists who become Black Belts, there are two secrets to getting there that you may not know. I can tell you the secrets, but I’m not sure you can handle the intense value of this information. Would any of you like to know?”

They all raise a hand.

“The secrets are….
1. Start, and 
2. Do not quit.”

They all groan, “but it’s more than that,” I add. “Everyone who has ever achieved excellence at anything has been afraid to start and then wanted to quit. We are all afraid of failure and often let that influence us to never start anything new. How many of you have ever thought of doing some activity, thought it looked cool, but were afraid to start?”

Of course they will all raise a hand.

“The best time to start is yesterday, the second best time to start is today. Once a person gets started, there are two major places where we all want to quit that activity. The first spot is when the activity gets too hard. They try and fail, maybe even try again and fail. This is where most people quit and go back to doing something easier, never knowing how great they could have become. How many of you quit something because it was too hard?”

Of course they all raise their hands.

“The person who eventually becomes an expert doesn’t quit, they keep going, and keep going until they not only accomplish the difficult thing, but they keep going until the difficult thing becomes a very easy thing. How many of you have ever noticed that something that was difficult becomes easier the more you do it?”

They will all raise their hands.

“Of course you have, it happens every day. But to really develop expertise, we have to go way, way beyond that. The secret to becoming an expert at anything, from cooking, to dancing, to martial arts, to gymnastics, to surfing, to horseback riding, to school, jobs and relationships, is to do that thing, over and over and over again, even though it gets difficult and most people quit, through the challenges, until even the hard stuff becomes easy. Then you get to that second place where people want to quit. Even though you have now made the difficult look easy, you have to keep going to the point where you are so completely bored you can’t stand it, and keep going. Very few people continue past this place. The expert is the one who gets to this point, and with their own determination and/or the strong influence of their support team, they keep going. That is why there are so few experts of anything in the world. Most people just don’t have what it takes. They lack the determination or the support team to help them. Do you have what it takes?”
Most kids will raise their hands here, but it’s a mixed bag of who has that momentary determination, real determination and who doesn’t.

“Have any of you noticed that people who are successful at something, tend to be successful at many things? Once you realize how to harness this determination by becoming an expert, or earning a Black Belt, it becomes easier to do it with other things. So to help you achieve this greatness I want you to repeat our mantra of success,

I won’t quit when it gets too hard, I won’t quit when it gets boring. I will embrace the challenges and the repetitions. I will succeed.”

Earning a Black Belt is a great way to be certain your child understands what it takes to be successful, overcoming the fear of starting something new, putting forth the work ethic to improve, embracing the repetitions to overcome challenges and how to develop the determination to see it through.  

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