Almost anyone can become an expert on a topic if they learn the secrets of its mastery. Fortunately, experts are created, not born. So, you can become a pro at any skill regardless of how difficult it may be.
It just takes some effort and focused practice, and you can ace any skill you choose.
Some say that you need 10,000 hours of practice before becoming an expert, but that might not be the case.
Earl Nightingales has said that if you put in one hour of learning or practicing on one subject every day for five years, you’ll become an expert.
Other people say if you read five books on a topic, then you’ll be a master of your craft.
I’m skeptical that everyone needs 10,000 hours to become an expert and this is why:
1. The quality of the person’s practice will vary.
2. People have different learning styles. So, if they spend their time learning the topic in the wrong way, they won’t absorb the information effectively.
3. The level of focus can fluctuate, and people get preoccupied.
So, there’s no telling how long it will take you to become an expert. You might get there long before 10,000 hours or a while afterward.
So, the first thing you should do is decide to dedicate yourself to this for the long haul. It’ll be worth it!
These tips will help you become an expert
1. Learn the basics before you can become an expert
You might get overwhelmed trying to learn every part of the process immediately. That increases the chances that you lose motivation and give up.
So, start with simple foundational skills and move up from there. Just like in school, don’t move on until you conquer each level.
Find out what’s most important to learn, then focus on those topics first.
2. To become an expert use 1/3 of your time learning and 2/3 applying
It’s been said that amateurs consume more than they create. Some people get stuck in research mode and therefore never improve their skills because they only read or watch things about it.
However, you need to put all that knowledge into practice before you see any changes.
Experts say that you should spend 1/3 of your time studying and 2/3 of the time actually practicing. For example, if you want to be a marketer, you’ll need to try and sell something most of the time.
We learn by doing, not by sitting in classrooms, reading about it.
3. Copy the masters
We were all told that copying is bad, but in reality, it can help you skyrocket your skills. Hunter S. Thompson used to copy The Great Gatsby repeatedly. Word for word. He did this because he wanted to feel what it’s like to write a masterpiece. Furthermore, it helped him study the skills Fitzgerald used to write his book.
I’ve been attempting to paint the old master’s paintings. Not to be like them, but to learn different styles and techniques.
The above painting is my version of The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.
I started painting in January and have been pretty prolific since then. You can check out my other creations here.
Experts have a wealth of knowledge that took them possibly decades to learn. If you have a choice, why not learn from the best?
4. Strive to be successful 60 to 80% of the time when training
If you’re winning 95% of the time, the subject is probably too easy for you. Eventually, you’ll get bored and quit.
If you’re failing 95% of the time, then the skill might be over your head. Reign it in and lower your standards till you can move up to the next level. Always re-evaluate your priorities, environment, and abilities. Keep adjusting till you’re succeeding 60-80% of the time.
5. Test yourself
Reading and re-reading is a waste of time because you won’t remember it later. Your brain learns when you act on what you read. It loves when you challenge it and pull information from memory. Try using flashcards or memorizing something. Instead of reading the same thing several times, read it once and write a quick summary.
You can take a free course online that comes with short quizzes and tests. I’ve used these sites.
- edx.org Free courses from Harvard, MIT, and others.
- Coursera Free online courses you can finish in a day.
6. Take advantage of criticism
Realize how valuable criticism is for you to launch toward becoming an expert. No one is flawless, not even the great geniuses throughout time! They made tons of mistakes, but they fixed the issues that caused their slip-ups. That way, they weren’t wasting time hitting the same wall.
Sometimes it’s challenging to step outside of yourself and critique your work. For example, when I paint, I get into the flow as I work. My mind is in the artwork and all the details. However, that makes it hard to see the “big picture. So, I’ll ask my husband to critique it. He instantly sees the shadows I forgot to add, or the perspective isn’t right.
I don’t want him to sugarcoat things, and I want to know what needs work. Otherwise, I might waste years practicing the same mistakes till they’re embedded in my brain. Furthermore, I’d have to deal with breaking a bad habit, and that’s a colossal waste of time.
So, don’t hide from criticism; use it to your advantage! It’s priceless information that people don’t usually voice. Work on fixing those problems until you overcome them.
7. Choose a role model
If you know someone already excelling at what you want to do, then have them as your role model. It can be encouraging to see someone doing what you want to do. Watch how they do things and learn everything you can from them.
8. Make it easier to practice
Don’t make practicing harder than it already is. Get rid of anything that will distract you from it. For example, if you want to get better at playing guitar, don’t put it in its case and hide it in the closet. Put your guitar right out in the open, so you can quickly get to it and practice.
9. Take power naps
You might think doing an “all-nighter” will benefit your results, but a sleepy brain is a messy brain. See, when we go through our day, our brains build up a residue that clouds our thinking. The only way to clean it up is to take a nap. Furthermore, we also store memories as we sleep, so it helps you to retain what you’ve learned.
10. Define what it means to become an expert
You’ll want to define what an expert in your field means. For instance, what skills would you have? How fast would you finish projects? What level does the quality need to reach?
Write down the aspects of an expert so you’ll have a concrete goal to aim for, and you’ll know when you achieve it. Define success so you can get it.
11. Defeat the dreaded plateau
On your path toward mastery, you might reach a plateau of improvement. You continue practicing daily, but you’re not seeing advancement. As a result, you may lose motivation and make you want to quit—this is the plateau.
You can get around this obstacle by switching things up with how you practice or study. Try it outside or at a park. The change of scenery will wake up your brain, and you’ll absorb more than normal.
In short, if you follow these tips, you’re sure to become an expert over time and much faster than the old ways of learning.
The main obstacle to mastery might be in your head. So, if you don’t think your current abilities are good enough, then chances are, they won’t be.
You’ll perform at a much lower level than you would if you encouraged yourself.
To become an expert, you’ve got to support yourself throughout the process.
Be realistic with what you can accomplish, and don’t beat yourself up if you fail to meet your standards. Have some self-compassion and be your own cheerleader.
So, now you know what to do to become an expert. Find out what’s most important about what you’re learning and decide to learn these things for the long haul. After plenty of practice and time, you’ll be proud of how awesome you’ve become.
How will you become an expert?