Two Hundred Shots

Working a lot is not enough.

This is the 200th post I publish on the blog. What was the last time you've put two hundred shots to learn something?

When most consultants talk about working hard, they use the amount of time they worked as an indicator of how hard they worked. “I've put up 65 hours this week!” is something they brag about with colleagues and peers.

Hearing this makes me feel both sad and concerned for the speaker. There are likely thousands of other professionals who generate even better results without sacrificing their health and discretionary time. Clear goals and priorities, time and task management, and a more sustainable way to look at work are just a few things that might be missing.

But more important than my personal feelings towards those who choose long working hours is the ugly truth: Simply working a lot isn't enough to make you an expert and top performer.

Consider this quote from Aubrey Daniels, behavioral science author and consultant, about deliberate practice:

“Consider the activity of two basketball players practicing free throws for one hour. Player A shoots 200 practice shots, Player B shoots 50. The Player B retrieves his own shots, dribbles leisurely and takes several breaks to talk to friends. Player A has a colleague who retrieves the ball after each attempt. The colleague keeps a record of shots made. If the shot is missed the colleague records whether the miss was short, long, left or right and the shooter reviews the results after every 10 minutes of practice. To characterize their hour of practice as equal would hardly be accurate. Assuming this is typical of their practice routine and they are equally skilled at the start, which would you predict would be the better shooter after only 100 hours of practice?”

In this example, both players could brag about their 60-minute practice. But only one of them is practicing deliberately. And that's exactly how top performers in every industry practice, according to research.

The best athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, and consultants not only work a lot, but their work is focused on consciously developing very specific skills. When I decide to publish a new blog post every day, I'm deliberately investing in improving my writing skills:

  • I'm finding better and more creative ways to communicate my work.
  • I'm keeping track of email open rates, click-through rates, and average engagement time to learn what topics consultants are more curious about.
  • I'm engaging with readers to learn what points could be made clearer, and what they enjoy the most and could be further explored.

Now ask yourself: What skills do you want to improve, and how can you practice them deliberately?

PS: For those who're curious, here's what I wrote on my 100th post.

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