How do you “get good” at your job?

As a HON sales member, I get my share of windshield time and take advantage of it by listening to some good audible books.

I recently finished Cal Newport’s latest book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work you Love.

The book starts off with the premise that “follow your passion” is not necessarily enough to create long term work you love.

Here’s what I learned in order to develop a fulfilling, meaningful career and be “so good you can’t be ignored”:

  1. Build and master rare and valuable skills.
  2. Deliberately practice your craft.
    • Stretch yourself every day to achieve beyond what you’ve previously accomplished.  As a viola player in my youth, that meant practicing the same musical scale until it became muscle memory.  The diligence it took to get to this point was often strenuous and not necessarily enjoyable.  However, this deliberate practice was necessary to master advanced music playing.  Think of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, “WAX ON, WAX OFF”.
  3. Apply deliberate practice and a craftsman mindset as knowledge workers.
    1. You don’t get to call yourself a craftsman without putting in time and focus.  Newport references the 10,000 hour rule, the concept that until you put 10,000 hours (or roughly 5 years) into developing a skill, you have not yet mastered the skill.

I apply these lessons in my career.  Deliberate practice and a craftsman mindset are essential to becoming so good you can’t be ignored.  If you’re in field sales like me, you may find this difficult to implement.  After all, you don’t get to repeat the same sales call every day, as every conversation is a new opportunity.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t seek incremental improvement. Here is what deliberate practice can look like in sales:

  • What am I going to do on this sales call that helps me improve compared to my last sales call?
  • How am I going to communicate the information more effectively to get the response I want?
  • This time, I’m only going to focus on ‘X’.

Consistently finding ways to improve the day-to-day tasks adds up and will eventually differentiate you from your competitors.  Whether you’re in sales or practicing a different craft, what are some ways you implement deliberate practice in your field?

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