How to Master New Skills Quickly

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Real special one for you this week.

So you know that your value in your career is all about how quickly you can learn skills.

The more skills you have, the more valuable you are to the market, simple as that.

You know people who probably don’t learn as much as they should and you’ve probably surpassed them, because the more you are able to do, the more you are able to connect things together, the more valuable you are to any enterprise.

So I’m not going to spend any time trying to convince you on that because you already know that.

And just in case you don’t, go and pick up a copy of someone like Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, and just read that because it’s surprising how some people can become just so superior in terms of what they are able to do, compared to those who just didn’t quite hone or master that skill.

Fascinating subject, so do pick up that book, it’s a real eye-opener for you.

Ok, so we know we should skill up, but we don’t have infinite amounts of time to actually go and do this.

So how do you learn new skills really, really quickly?

What’s quite cool is that over the last 3 or 4 years, neuroscience has actually been focusing on not quite this but some very related topics. It’s been figuring out how does the brain actually store stuff.

What is the brain doing when you master stuff?

What’s going on with someone who plays the violin amazingly well; someone who plays the violin okay and someone who is just a starter?

What is actually happening?

Neuroscience has found some very interesting things.

1. Intense Focus

The first thing that the scientists found is that the difference between someone who is learning skills quickly and someone who is just not getting there is Intense periods of Focus.

I’ll give you an example. I needed to learn a new information marketing system. I was trying to do it for about two or three weeks by getting 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there and trying to squeeze it into my day job as well.

Wasn’t working.

So, what I did was I actually sat down and in the period of 2 hours, I kid you not, 2 hours, that was all, deliberately focussed, I got it.

I got it because actually, my mind was clear, I was able to look at it, I was able to test it and I got it.

No doubt you have had the same experiences.

So, why are intense periods of focus so important to learning quickly?

What’s happening in your brain is when you are distracted, or dealing with lots of different issues, or spending, like I was, 10 minutes every now and again, trying to figure this thing out, your brain is firing all over the place.

So you have different parts of your brain turning on and off all the time and it’s like walking through a normal crowds and lots of stuff happening.

The brain is not very good at actually developing deep learning in that mode.

What happens with intense focus is, you actually say ok, forget about everything else and let’s focus on this.

What’s happening in your brain is all these other areas are starting to shut down and the part of the brain that you want to focus on is lighting up and when this is happening, a really cool thing starts happening.

It starts layering down. The gaps between the neurons that are firing start solidifying, a myelin coating starts going around them.

That starts helping your brain neurons fire more efficiently to each other.

So with focussed attention, the part of your brain that is learning a new skill is becoming stronger and stronger. The neurons are connecting more efficiently.

That is the difference between someone who has mastered something and someone who has not.

They have managed to hardwire their brain, change it, so that they are learning this and they are just better at mastering it.

But without intense focus, without setting that time aside, you won’t get there.

No Intense Focus, No Mastery

2. Feedback

The second thing that’s really important is Feedback.

We usually overlook this.

We know this is true, right?

I am not a great golfer at all, but let’s use the golfing analogy. You’re standing there at a driving range. You see the hole over there, about 70 yards out, flag there, lined up, you’ve got your driver in your hand, ball ready on the tee, ready to hit, you are about to swing… and then you put on your blindfold.

You whack the ball with the blindfold on.

Not very clever.

You get it. Putting a blindfold on as you’re hitting that golf ball – how on earth are you going to know where the ball went to?

You whack it again with the blindfold. Where has the ball gone to?

You whack it again.

If you continue practising away, hitting with the blindfold, blind to what’s happening, getting no feedback, are you going to improve? Obviously not.

Obviously not.

The reason that you learn and improve is that you’re hitting the ball, you watch it, you felt the stroke, you watched the ball, did it go far enough, did it go left, did it go right? Oh it went right a bit, I’m going to try something different this time.

You try it again differently, oh that was straighter.

You practise and you’re getting that immediate feedback.

This is instant feedback, which is brilliant, the more immediate feedback you get from whatever you’re doing, the quicker you learn.

Makes sense, yeah?

So, if it makes sense, why do we not apply this in the workplace very often?

The thing that always gets me is presentation skills.

Typically most people present maybe once or twice a month.

Do they use Intense Focus, do they actually go and put the time in to learn this skill that they know they are going to be doing once or twice a month?

Very few people actually apply the Intense Focus first of all.

And secondly, in the past year, I don’t think once I’ve been asked by someone to give them Feedback on how their presentation went.

Not even once.

And oh, wow, I could give loads of feedback because I have sat through so many absolutely terrible presentations, just wrong storyline, wrong format, what’s in it for me missing, but I’ve never been asked ever about feedback.

So something as basic and as important as trying to convince people in the workplace to get your ideas across and we just don’t do it.

Are You Getting Immediate Feedback?

My Brilliant Friend

However, I’ve got a friend who invested loads of time in the Intense Focus. This was about 10 years ago.

She figured out what a presentation has to do. And she went on a course and she read and she read more and she read more and eventually, she came up with essentially what looks more like a marketing pitch.

She’s got a structure that she uses all the time. It is so effective.

If she invites you to a meeting, you know what is going to happen.

You are going to instantly learn what the presentation is going to be about, you are going to be instantly guided through what’s happening, you know you’re not going to waste your time.

And guess what?

You always show up to her meetings, always.

It’s brilliant.

But she always asks, even though she is head and shoulders above everyone else, she always asks for Feedback.

In fact, normally she’ll actually do a quick dry-run of the presentation:

“I have got all these people around, this person might come up with this question, this person might come up with that idea. I am thinking of presenting the idea in this type of way to help it flow better, what do you think?” 

She is asking for feedback before she even starts!

Absolutely brilliant.

She is head and shoulders above everyone else, all because she put in probably about two days work 10 years ago.

Do you think putting in that amount of work has paid off for her?

You bet you it has.

You bet.

Her career – it’s brilliant

She’s doing really really well for herself.

Ask For Feedback Before You Even Start

Your Task

What I want you to do for next week is think about a skill that you are using every day in your work environment.

Maybe it is presentation skills, maybe it’s speaking, maybe it’s running meetings, maybe it’s just delivering one-to-one meetings with your team.

Figure out how can you get much better at it and set some time aside, even if it’s only two hours, to go and research and figure out how you get to really improve yourself.

And figure out as well how are you going to start getting feedback.

How are you going to start learning from all this knowledge about this subject, so you really level it up?

Talk to you next week.

 

If you haven’t already done so, be sure and sign up for my FREE insights and training on how to Master Your Income. And if you’re a podcast person you can subscribe to the Career Hacker iTunes podcast.

Are You Learning As Much As You Should?

 

How to Master New Skills Quickly Tip #1

How to Master New Skills Quickly Tip #2

Are You Going To Improve Without Feedback?

Transcription

(In case you don’t understand my accent)

Hi, I’m Keith McEvoy, CEO of Success that Works and Founder of SuperCharge Academy.

Real special one for you today.

So you know that your value in your career is all about how quickly you can learn skills.

The more skills you have, the more valuable you are to the market, simple as that.

You know people who probably don’t learn as much as they should and you’ve probably surpassed them, in fact almost definitely, because the more things you are able to do, the more things you are able to connect together, the more valuable you are to any enterprise.

So I’m not going to spend any time trying to convince you on that because you know that.

And just in case you don’t, go and pick up a copy of someone like Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, which talks about “The Ten Thousand Hours”  and just read that because it’s surprising how, just even a little bit more skillful, how that affects people over time – how they become just so superior in terms of what they are able to do, to people who just didn’t quite hone or master that skill.

So fascinating subject, so do pick up that book, it’s a real eye-opener for you.

But anyway, what I want to show you is, well and good saying, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I should skill, I know I should do this, but we don’t have infinite amounts of time to actually go and do this. So, how do you learn new skills really, really quickly?

What’s quite cool is over the last oh about 3 or 4 years, neuroscience has actually been focusing on not quite this but some very related topics, figuring out how does the brain actually store stuff.

What is the brain doing when you master stuff, why is someone who plays the violin amazingly well and someone who plays the violin okay and someone who is just a starter, what’s going on?

What is actually happening, that’s allowing them to be who that is?

And they found some very interesting things, the first thing that they found is the difference between someone who is learning skills quickly and someone who is just not getting there is number one, which is actually intense periods of focus.

What is actually happening is if you want to really learn a skill (and you’ve probably experienced this yourself), so say for example, actually I needed to learn a new information marketing system and basically what I did was, I was trying to do it for about two or three weeks but only learnt by getting up to 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there and trying to squeeze it into my day job as well.

Wasn’t working.

So, what I did was I actually sat down and in the period of 2 hours, I kid you not, 2 hours, that was it, but deliberately focussed, I got it. I got it because actually, my mind was clear, I was able to look at it, I was able to test it and I got it, and no doubt you have had the same experiences.

So, why are those intense periods of focus, why are they so important to working quickly? And it turns out that neuroscience actually is coming up with the answer.

Basically what’s happening in your brain is when you are distracted or dealing with lots of different stuff or spending like I was, 10 minutes every now and again, trying to figure this thing out, your brain is firing all over the place.

So you have different parts of your brain turning on and off all the time and it’s like just normal walking through crowds and lots of stuff happening.

The brain is not very good at actually developing deep learning in that mode.

What happens with intense focus is, you actually say ok, forget about everything else and let’s focus on this. What’s happening in your brain is all these other areas are starting to shut down and the bit that you want to focus on is lighting up and when this is happening, a really cool thing starts happening.

It starts layering down, it’s called, the gaps between the neurons that are firing, they start solidifying, a myelin coating starts going around that. That starts helping your brain neurons fire more efficiently to each other.

So if you are sitting down focused attention, even the violin, the bits of your brain that are managing that violin and learning, they are becoming stronger and stronger and what they are doing is just connecting those neurons more efficiently and that is actually the difference between someone who has mastered something and someone who has not.

They have managed to hardwire their brain, change it so that they are learning this and they are just better at mastering it. But without intense focus, without setting that time aside, you won’t get there.

 

The second thing that’s really important is Feedback.

We sort of overlook this.

We know this is true, right? I am not a great golfer at all, but let’s use the golfing analogy.

So you’re standing there at a driving range. You see the hole over there, about 70 yards out, flag there, lined up, you’ve got your driver in your hand, ball ready on the tee, ready to hit, you are about to swing, you go, oh hang on a second and you put on your blindfold. You whack the ball with the blindfold on, yeap that’s great.

Not very clever, yeah you get it, that actually putting a blindfold on as you’re hitting that golf ball, how on earth are you going to know where the ball went to?

You whack it again with the blindfold. Where has the ball gone to? You whack it again.

If you continue practising away, hitting there with the blindfold, blind to what’s happening, getting no feedback, are you going to improve? Obviously not. Obviously not.

The reason that you learn and improve is that you’re hitting the ball, you watch it, you felt the stroke, you watched the ball, did it go far enough, did it go left, did it go right? Oh, it went right a bit, I’m going to try something different this time.

You try it again different, oh that was straighter. You practise and you’re getting that immediate feedback.

This is instant feedback, which is brilliant, the more immediate feedback you get from whatever you’re doing, the quicker you learn. Makes sense, yeah? So, if it makes sense, why do we not apply this in the workplace very often?

The thing that always gets me is presentation skills. Typically most people present maybe once or twice a month. Do they do intense focus, do they actually go and put the time in to learn this skill that they know they are going to be doing once or twice a month?

Very few people actually apply the Intense Focus first of all.

And secondly, in the past year, I don’t think once I’ve been asked by someone to give them feedback on how their presentation went. Not even once. And oh, wow, I could give loads of feedback because I have sat through so many absolutely terrible presentations, just wrong storyline, wrong format, what’s in it for me missing, but I’ve never been asked ever about feedback.

So something as basic and as important as trying to convince people in the workplace to get your ideas across and we just don’t do it.

However, I’ve got a friend who invested loads of time in the Intense Focus, this is about 10 years ago and she is very good at this. Basically what she did is she figured out what does a presentation have to do.

And she went on a course and she read and she read more and she read more and eventually, she came up with essentially it looks more like a marketing pitch, but she’s got a structure that she uses all the time. It is so effective, if she invites you to a meeting, you know what’s going to happen.

You are going to instantly learn what the presentation is going to be about, you are going to be instantly guided through what’s happening, you know you’re not going to waste your time.

And guess what, you always show up to her meetings, always. It’s brilliant. But she always asks, even though she is head and shoulders above everyone else, she is always asking for feedback.

In fact, normally she’ll actually do a quick dry-run of the presentation: I have got all these people around, this person might come up with this, this person might come up with that idea.

I am thinking of presenting the idea in this type of way to help it flow better, what do you think? She is asking for feedback before she even starts, absolutely brilliant.

She is head and shoulders above everyone else, all because she put in probably about two days work 10 years ago. Do you think putting in that amount of work has paid off for her?

You bet you it has. You bet. Her career – brilliant, doing really really well for herself.

 

Okay, right. What I want you to do for next week is think about an area/something that you are doing / a skill that you are using every day in your work environment.

Maybe it is presentation skills, maybe it’s speaking, maybe it’s running meetings, maybe it’s just delivering one to one meetings with your team, but figure out how can you get really better at it and set some time aside, even if it’s only two hours, to go and research and figure out how you get really really better.

And figure out as well how are you going to start getting feedback, how are you going to start learning from all this knowledge about this subject, so that you go from being here and you really level it up, so you’re up here.

Talk to you next week.

 

So if you enjoyed this video and found it useful, I’ve got two things that you can actually do right this second. The first thing is to click the button just here and subscribe to my YouTube channel and that means that you won’t miss any future episodes from me. And the second thing that you can do is if you click the button just here, you can sign up for my weekly newsletters which have loads of free tools and insights and lots of really cool stuff that basically will help you to go earn your worth in a job you love, with a great work-life balance because you so deserve it.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure and sign up for my FREE insights and training on how to Master Your Income. And if you’re a podcast person you can subscribe to the Career Hacker iTunes podcast.

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