How to become great at anything

achieve greatness

I justĀ listened to the Freakonomics podcast episode called “How to Become Great at Just About Anything.” You should go listen to it, but only after you read this post. šŸ™‚

There really wasn’t anything groundbreaking in there. There’s no magic bullet, no “limitless”Ā pill you can take, nothing like that.

It basically comes down to hard work performed consistently over time.

That’s kind of obvious, but there was a little more nuance to it.

The hard work you put in has to be intentional, meaning that you have to set specific goals and objectives. And you have to be able to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone in order to grow.

This is what is called “deliberate practice.”

In the episode, there was a study that compared bus and taxi drivers in London. Both would drive many hours every day. But bus drivers would drive the exact same route daily, while taxi drivers would drive all over the city and be forced to memorize every street (before smartphone maps, of course).

Even though both bus and taxi drivers drove the same amount of time, the study found more growth in taxi drivers’ brains, primarily because they kept learning new routes and explored new areas of town.

The shining example of the episode was a woman, Susanne Bargmann, who loved singing but was pretty bad at it. So she decided to work with a singing coach and practice one hour everyday.

Her goal was to achieve the “big” sound that Christina Aguilera expresses when she sings.

After singing everyday for a year and a half, she achieved her goal.

Her next goal was to perform in front of people. She crushed that one as well.

Now she’s a recording artist in Denmark. Amazing.

When I blogged for 30 consecutive daysĀ and continue to write every weekday, I’m deliberately practicing my writing. I believe that I’m a better and more consistent writer because of it.

Hard work and consistency are certainly important to getting good at anything. But being deliberate about what you’re trying to achieve and getting out of your comfort zone are just as crucial.

So what do you want to become great at, and how will you work toward it?

Iā€™d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

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Photo courtesy of Koka Sexton on Flickr

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