Connecting The Dots

by John Spence on · 8 comments

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

John Spence is the author of "Awesomely Simple - Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action." He is an award-winning professional speaker and corporate trainer, and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Harleena Singh@Freelance Writer April 7, 2012 at 8:37 am

Wonderful post indeed!

I loved the mention of the 4 P’s which are so true! I think if you don’t have passion in the work you do, no matter what kind of work, you can never really excel in that field.

Similarly, persistence and practice is what makes you perfect, as you need to keep at it to really excel in your field. Surely a wonderful way to connect the dots 🙂

However, with many people these things are easier said than done. I have often observed that if and when people fail at things they give up rather soon or take up things that they are not really passionate about, which results in them leaving things mid-ways and not completing their goals. Nor do they have the patience to keep trying or practicing things to get perfect or skilled in their filed.

And you are absolutely right about being creative and trying out different things, for which you need to give yourself that much needed PUSH out of your comfort zone. Be different and unique as they say 🙂

I guess what really matters is that you take up each task as your passion, and keep learning from it till you really excel, which will lead you eventually to success.

Thanks for sharing and a wonderful reminder to keep on trying no matter the result. 🙂
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Evan April 7, 2012 at 9:00 am

A very interesting read from the philosophical and educational perspective is What Computers Can’t Do by Dreyfus and Dreyfus.

For a virtual library on the implications of our brains operating as a pattern recognition surface see the many books by Edward de Bono (not all equally good by any means).
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Dennis @ selfhelpURLS April 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Well Said, John!

Passion and Persistence is the key to success – Really!

I remember there’s one saying, “if you can do something that require a lot of efforts and you willing to do it for FREE, that most probably is your passion.” I don’t know how accurate is this, but I believe!

In a nutshell, we must never, never give up. Therefore, persistence is really a must to achieve your goals!



Jody - Fit at 54 April 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Great post! Truth for sure! I do go out of the comfort zone in my workouts but not so much in other things. I have but maybe I need to try more. THX!
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Stephanie G Travis April 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

After 7 years of owning my first business, I definitely see the patterns and can now use them to better serve my clients and myself. The work done to get to this place was enormous. Its very tempting to sit back and coast. Thanks for the challenge, John!


Find Your Harmony April 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Hi JOhn,
I really love this idea of the 4Ps! Thank you for sharing. I know that for me, it is the persistence, the drive to daily practice to become that expert…to have that feeling of accomplishment that is so necessary.

What a great take on this months theme! I will forge ahead and continue to strive to connect those dots!!
In Harmony,
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Jerry Ackerman April 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Hi John, Thank you for sharing such an interesting post. The 4Ps are certainly the key to success. I agree with pushing yourself out of the comfort zone. Finding new discoveries and accomplishing things that would make you a better person!


Susan Lowe April 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Thanks so much for your 4 P’s post, John! I ‘got’ numbers one and two a long time ago, but appreciate your mention of the importance of the last two. Something to keep in mind for sure!


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