suc·cess: (n.) The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted

You, 5.0: How To Master Any Skill Quickly

So you want to expand your horizons by securing a new talent. Whatever new ability you might pursue, you'll want to ensure your success by seeking to acquire the targeted "skill set" efficiently. Learning any new skill will force you to adapt to new conditions, and to master certain details; yet the skills needed to LEARN it, whichever skill it may be, will not vary. So to enable you to tackle your new venture with a grin, I have here briefly outlined and unpacked the rules for properly so doing.

First, you will need to hit the books, or at least sample a little e-search, to acquaint yourself with the history of the subject or activity you purport to subdue. A wise man once noted that there is nothing new under the sun. "What is," he pointed out, "has been before." So briefly examine the history of surfing, fishing, full-contact golf, or whatever. This will plant some great ideas in your head, and give you insights into how others have done it well. Take notes, and don't try to reinvent the surfboard -- at least, not yet.

Second, once you have eyeballed what success looked like in this field in times past, set a specific and measurable goal that defines for YOU what counts as "success." Customize it to fit your life and personality. This step often goes overlooked. Yet with no clear definition specified for "success" (that translates easily into numbers), one cannot know when he has won the day. Imagine a golfer told to whack a hole-in-one, when he has no idea where the hole sits. You can change your objective if you overreach yourself at the outset, but you need something to aim at from the start. So, go on. Be a tiger, and set a goal.

Third, break this goal down into bite-sized tasks you can perform daily. Remember, one cannot eat all the chocolate at a See's candystore in a day, and you'd make yourself ill for the effort. Oh, sure, it would make for a great deal of fun in the short run, but you'd hate yourself in the morning. Take it one bite at a time.

Fourth, learn to traffic fluently in the jargon native to the community known for dabbling in your chosen art. Every community of experts speaks its own dialect, a tongue you'll need to grasp before you can master the desired skill set. Lawyers, for instance, must learn to manage a bizarre mix of English and Latin to move onto their goals. The sooner you come to grasp the new vocabulary, the faster you will succeed. Immersing yourself in the community in question, or else just purchasing the appropriate flash-card set, will make it happen faster.

Fifth, identify the basics most central to obtaining your targeted ability or trait. Pele, the great Brazilian soccer player, once remarked to an interviewer that the three most important ways to master the game were "run with the ball," "run with the ball," and "run with the ball some more." Each desired skill set comes with some skills more or less needful than the others for the obtaining of your goal. You must isolate the ones most crucial to your aims, and distinguish them from the others. Make a list, and set them in order, placing the more important skills at the top in descending order. Then, as they say, "take it from the top" when deciding how much time each day to spend on each skill.

Sixth, master the basics -- practice RELENTLESSLY the skills at the top of your list. Larry Byrd -- former basketball player for the Boston Celtics -- became quite arguably one of the best NBA players of all time because he practiced shooting the ball for hours every day without fail. His record remains all the more remarkable given that he faced players every game, most of whom stood much taller than he. If you truly want to win, you must set apart a certain amount of time each day to make it happen. Practice is for the Byrds.

Seventh, study those who do it best. Adopt, as it were, three mentors of your chosen art, and watch how they do it. Then, analyze the methods each employs, step by step. Compare and contrast their methods, noting both the common and distinctive features of each approach. Take notes.

Eighth, use your notes and studies to mix and match the approaches you have seen. Try a new angle on, or combination of, their methods. Note not only those that work well, but also the effects of each attempt on your environment, so that you can detect HOW and WHY they work well. This will give you new insights along the way to add to your mastery of the basics.

Ninth, image yourself succeeding in the applying of your new talent, and under various circumstances. This will better prepare you for using it in a game, a board meeting, or what have you. Mentally sort through the problems you'll likely encounter in your scenarios. Think of ways to adapt to, and overcome the imagined obstacles. This will tend to build your confidence, making you far less likely to run into a situation wholly new to you. Studies show that mental readiness yields better performers.

Finally, keep a personal log that recounts your daily efforts to tackle the small tasks you have allotted to yourself. You might even do this online on your blog. Also mark any special conditions attending your task performance for each day. Watch the progress unfold daily before your eyes. This will motivate you to press on, and show you how to improve more quickly, by your noting which conditions aid or hinder your progress.

Pursuing a new goal to improve your own skills takes commitment, and can offer great rewards. It calls for drive and consistency more than anything else. Here, the aphorism applies, "It is better not to vow, than to vow and not fulfill." Half-hearted efforts lead to discouragement, end in failure, and lower your own confidence to meet other tasks as well in the future.

So take a realistic inventory before deciding to embark on a new venture. Gather up some information to assess whether or not it really has the value you think it does. Count the cost first. After you've decided to jump in with both feet, pursue it to completion, step by step. Follow the rules, and press on. A new you -- your future upgrade -- awaits.

Carson Day has written approximately 1.3 gazillion articles and essays, many with very insightful, if alternative, viewpoints. He presently writes for Ophir Gold Corporation, and specialized in the history of ideas in college. He has been quoted in the past as saying "What box?" and remains at large despite the best efforts of the civil authorities.

You can visit the Ophir Gold Corporation blogsites at (Writing With Power), (OGC's Free Web Traffic), or (Church and State 101)

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Attracting Success