Along with a dozen amateur marathon runners, I spent a year training under a talented long-distance running coach. He represented Ireland in 24-hour endurance races around the world.
As inspiration, he shared his training runs on a Facebook messenger group and via the Garmin app alongside practical running advice.
I was struck by the consistency of his regular practice.
Now, my running wasn’t at the same level as this coach, but his advice motivated me to train harder. I spent weeks training for a race only to be derailed by injury.
I complained to my coach about doing the work and feeling like I was getting nowhere fast.
“Bryan, I’ve had more good days at the office than bad ones,” he said.
In this case my coach’s “office” was the running track. He was a master at his craft, and he trained without expecting a quick fix or instant result. This approach to mastery applies to finding success, whether inside or outside the office.
Hone Your Skills
A business owner grows his company by attracting qualified traffic from social media advertising. But this channel isn’t performing as well today compared to last year.
An executive earns a promotion and now must give more presentations, but her public speaking skills are rusty.
A runner sets a personal best at a 10 km race, but then finds his times slip backward because of injury.
If there’s a gap between what you want to accomplish and what you’re able to do today, the best way to close that gap is by honing your skills.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote,
“It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you.”
In the case of the struggling business person, he could step back from social media marketing and take an online course.
The newly promoted executive could hire a coach to help her refine her public speaking skills.
In my case, I should have eased back on my weekly mileage and worked my form and strength training.
This might feel frustrating, but stepping back to hone your skills will give you the edge needed to cut through more difficult challenges.
Beware of Homeostasis
A student learning a language often experiences the frustration of forgetting some of what they learned weeks or months earlier. This experience applies to soft and hard skills you learn at work like effective time management or coding.
Behold backsliding in action.
In Mastery, George Leonard wrote,
“Backsliding is a universal experience. Every one of us resists significant change, no matter whether it’s for the worse or for the better.”
The human body possesses a natural tendency to gravitate toward a norm — for better or worse. After all, if your body temperature rose by 10% in an hour, you’d need to call an ambulance.
If you want to avoid backsliding, be mindful of your inbuilt resistance to change. When you feel an internal resistance to practicing a new skill like planning for the week ahead or coding, commit to following a regular practice.
For example, you could say “Every Friday, I will spend 30 minutes reviewing my calendar.”
Or “Every Monday, I will spend 30 minutes completing a coding challenge.”
Seek Out More Than Results
Ask yourself if you’re seeking a quick fix or if you’re committed over the long-term to mastering your desired skill.
In my case, I was expecting a personal-best running time after just a few months of hard work. I should have known mastery of a skill — it could be running, writing or even growing a business — is a lifelong practice.
“Our preoccupation with goals, results, and the quick fix has separated us from our own experiences.”
Or as my astute running coach said, “We do the training so we can do the training.”