Becoming a High Performer - How To Master Your Skill Set Like The Top 1%
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln
In order to become truly great at your craft, you must master the art of building your skillset.
Building your skillset is just like sharpening your tools for hunting; it is something you must continuously practice and keep up with.
Without sharpening your tools, your tools will become dull – in turn, you become incapable of performing the job that must be done, at the quality it must be done at.
If you want to achieve greatness in your craft, it is going to require that your tools be razor-sharp.
However, very few people actually put in the effort to identify these key skills and set up the right systems to build them consistently.
Today I am going to teach you the best approach to building a razor-sharp skill set that will put you in the top 1% of achievers in your craft.
Focus on What's Important To The Role You Play:
Let’s use basketball as an example.
In basketball, there are a variety of skills that are important to the game – dribbling, shooting, finishing ability, rebounding, the list goes on.
Depending on your role – some skills will be more important than others. For example, for a point guard – their dribbling ability and shooting ability are going to be much more important and impactful on the game than their rebounding ability.
If a guard can dribble and shoot really well but cant rebound very well, they can still be a great point guard and contributor.
If a guard can’t dribble or shoot really well but can rebound really well – they will find themselves out of the rotation and not getting any playing time.
In turn, not all skills are built equal. Some are much more important than others.
This is the same with every other craft or profession - there will always be a particular set of key skills that must be mastered depending on your role.
When you are able to identify and master those key skills, you will be able to perform to the highest of levels.
Start By Identifying Your Key Skills:
Start by identifying the high ROI, key skills of your role.
My blog on compounded learning outlines how you can use mentors, experience, podcasts, and other learning methods to give you well-needed answers to things like this.
In order to find these skills, you must think to yourself and find the answers to these questions:
- What am I responsible for accomplishing in my role?
- What skills are required in accomplishing those tasks?
- Which of those skills are most important?
- Which skills separate the high performers from the average performers?
- What are the fundamentals?
In building a skill set, always start with the fundamentals.
Pick the top four most important skills that you must master – focus on those.
Depending on your craft, it may be tempting to dabble with flashy skills that aren’t necessarily so important, and there may be tons of skills to pick from.
But you must stay focused on the most important ones, to begin with.
Pick the two to four fundamental skills of your craft, and the role you play within it.
These will be the key skills that you will focus on.
Think of these selected key skills as the tools that you must sharpen.
The Three Possible States a Skill Will Be In:
Now that you have identified your key skills, it is time to recognize the three states a particular skill will be in at all times.
Immersion (the best way to get really good at something)
When you completely immerse yourself in improving at a particular skill. You eat, sleep, and repeat, day after day with a particular skill.
Practice it with high frequency
You put the majority of your effort and focus into mastering and advancing in this skill, with a goal of getting to a point of mastery.
Goal = Mastery
Maintenance (a good way of maintaining skills)
When you do just enough of a particular skill to maintain your current skill level at it.
Practice it, but to a less frequent degree
The goal here is to maintain your current skill level.
Goal = Maintain current skill-level
Disregard (best saved for skills that have a low ROI)
When you don’t put effort or energy into improving a particular skill, you ignore it.
Practice to a minimum degree
This is best saved for skills that don’t matter much at the moment.
Goal = Ignore the skill and put your time elsewhere.
All of your key skills should always be in either a state of immersion or maintenance.
Your low ROI skills should be in a state of disregard (until you have mastered all of the fundamental key skills and are ready to master new ones).
The problem is that most people have their most important skills in states of maintenance or disregard - and then they wonder and ask themselves "why am I not performing at a high-level?" or "why does everyone else seem to be performing better than me?".
It's no secret. This is a major differentiator.
The Best Approach To Building a Skill set – Immersion Periods
Most people try to improve at too many things at once. They become a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
It doesn’t work very well, and it never amounts to greatness.
You must become a master of each skill, one at a time, through immersion periods.
Given that there isn’t enough time in the day to become a master at all skills at once; immersion periods have proven to be the best way to build a skill set.
Take my Muay Thai Gym for an example. Muay Thai is a martial art that entails 5 key skills; punching, kicking, knees, elbows, and clinching.
Instead of training their gym members all five key skills at once over the course of our 1-hour gym session – they use immersion periods.
For two weeks, we immerse ourselves and dedicate all of our classes to one skill set (e.g. kicking). We become excellent at that skill by the end of those two weeks – far better than if we had tried learning the other four in addition to it, during the same period.
Then for the next two weeks, we immerse ourselves in the next skill (e.g. elbows) – and so on, and so on.
This is extremely effective and it enables you to become a master of a particular skill.
Once you master that skill, you can move it into a state of maintenance (to maintain your new-found skill level) and begin immersing yourself in the next skill.
Why Immersion Periods Are The Best Approach
Immersion periods are the best approach to building a razor-sharp skill set, and they should be used for every craft.
Focus on one skill for a period of time. Give it all your effort, focus, and dedication.
Learn the ins and outs of that skill, how the pro’s do it, then practice and practice some more, till you master it.
Kobe Bryant was famous for shooting the same shot over and over again, for hours on end till he mastered it. Not many NBA players do this, but that’s also a big reason why Kobe was able to separate himself from the pack, and how he was able to become a master of his craft.