Several years ago I read a book called the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. To summarize this and credibly weighty tome, it basically said that to become world-class at anything you need the 4P's.
Passion: if you don't really love what you're doing, there is no way you will ever become an expert at it.
Persistence: as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book Outliers it takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours to master a skill or specific area of knowledge.
Practice: but the key here is to do "deliberate practice," which means that every practice session is a little bit more challenging than the last, constantly pushing you to improve and grow.
Pattern Recognition: once you invest 10 years or 10,000 hours in something that you are deeply passionate about and consistently push yourself to improve through deliberate practice… You realize that you have discovered how to "connect the dots" and understand your area of focus at the level far beyond others. This is how the chess grandmaster "sees down board," were great actually see the entire field of play and anticipate their opponents next moves, or how a virtuoso musician can simply look at a piece of music and begin to play it immediately… they see the pattern.
The more I studied this topic, by many different authors and experts, the idea of pattern recognition kept coming up over and over again – there was a pattern around pattern recognition! The interesting thing though is that most often the things that allow a person to connect the dots are the unique, different, surprising and interesting things you find… when you get off the beaten path. When you read a book on a topic you would normally never study, watch a movie on something that you know little about, or go to a museum look at paintings in style that doesn't necessarily fit your normal pattern for the type of art you typically like to look at.
Don't get me wrong, routine can be very good, it is comfortable, it is predictable, it is safe… but routine often creates a rut – the absolute epitome of a beaten path!
So if you want to make new discoveries in your life, find new ways to see things, new perspectives on some of your thorniest problems – then push yourself way out of your comfort zone, far, far off the beaten path… and as if by magic the dots will begin to connect.
by John Spence